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Over the Septic Tank

If I have to replant every year or two, I want to spend that energy on something more interesting than grass. I set a circle of pretty stones over the perimeter of the septic tank, and started a new bed.

Do tank maintenance in early spring or late fall, I figured, and annuals could enjoy their normal summer life cycle. So I tried purple-red 'Volcano' coleus, purple 'Domino' nicotiana, and single 'Plum Crazy Madness' petunias — lavender with purple veins. A few orphan nierembergia 'Mont Blanc' got tucked in around the edge.

In spring, planning the bed, I observed the light carefully; then chose what should like part sun and part shade. But as summer progressed, the sun on the bed increased. The coleus started to burn; I moved them to a shadier location.

In addition, I learned that a circular bed has a unique problem: it wants a symmetrical look, which is hard to achieve. In any garden at this latitude, the sun comes more from the south; in this spot, the light was even less symmetrical due to shade during part of the day. The flowers all looked one way, and shorter plants on the sunny side of taller ones, grew more than their siblings on the shady side. Aside from the coleus, the other plants each did well enough, but the bed as a whole looked lopsided.

The next year, I realized that digging up the bed would give me an opportunity to control invasive perennials. Since the tank warms the ground, I planted silver-edged thyme around the edge — a plant I love, but it doesn't love winter cold. Within that, euonymus 'Emerald Gaiety,' with its larger deep green leaves similarly edged in white. In the center, a fountain-like plume of tall 'Feesey's' ribbon grass: green and creamy-white, with a bit of pink early in the year. For accent, I put four pink geraniums in pots that I sunk into the soil, planning to rotate them to even out the sun exposure.

The foliage plants gave much better symmetry, but none of the geraniums got enough sun. The thyme survived the winter, but then the euonymus overran it. I kept the ribbon grass in control pretty well for a few years, but now it's grown all through the euonymus. Oh, well, it's almost time to dig it up again. What shall I try this time?

© Copyright 2003 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, 18 April 2003

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For more information

'Volcano' Coleus

Plum Crazy Madness Petunia

Petunia — general information, from the Clemson U. Extension Home & Garden Information Center.