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Learning the Hard Way

Once again I’m starting over with the most difficult spot in my garden. It’s bare dirt. I left it that way a few weeks, so any roots still there sent up new shoots; then I dug them up (three ruellias).

Three feet deep and six feet long, this bed runs along the right side of our L-shaped front porch. It gets almost full sun, has sandy soil, and can get rather dry. So I first tried euonymus there. But when it rains, the porch, which has no gutter, dumps runoff into the bed. Most of the euonymus rotted away, except for a few rags in back of the drip line. It needs plants which are versatile about water ... and ideally, that are tough enough to take a little pounding from it.

In addition, they must not reach up past the foundation to the wooden supporting beams under the porch. I have enough termite highways all around the house from tall plants too close; I’m hoping to move them all ... and determined not to plant any more. The bed along the other side of the L is full of them; I didn’t know about the problem when I planted there, ten years ago. I’d like to expand the depth of the bed and move them outward.

But now, I just want to fill the bare side. The ruellias thrived there, along with some wild asters. But even the ruellia got too tall, and I couldn’t keep the three-foot asters far enough out from the house.

Some low-growing sedum, perhaps: I have a lot of S. Spurium ‘John Creech’ I could move; it’s easy, grows thick and has brilliant magenta-pink flowers ... maybe a bit too brilliant for my taste. Hmm, I actually have several low-growing sedums in various places I could bring together and plant in drifts of their different colors.... Maybe with them some sempervivums, which hate wet feet in winter: does the bed drain well enough?

Finally, I’m sure Vinca minor would do fine here. A dwarf variety, ‘Miss Jekyll,’ thrives at the other end of the same bed. It makes a thick mat, three or four inches high, with three-quarter-inch, bright evergreen leaves, and little white flowers in May. It would unify the bed, make a nice expanse. It’s easy. But it’s a bit boring ... and very aggressive, no trying a little of that and a little of something else. It’s all or nothing.

© 2004 Catherine Holmes Clark

© Copyright 2004 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 10 September 2004

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