Follow up on the Succession Garden

I love doing succession gardens, that is a changing display of plants in the same space.  It is a wonderful way to make the most of a small space, and though my garden is far from small, I thought it would be fun to do in one area.

This bed is what we see every day and evening while we eat dinner and then watch TV.  I wanted to have a colorful, everchanging display.

So last year I put in a complete groundcover of a small Nepeta: Blue Wonder.  And I interplanted with Allium.   I also seeded with red Poppies, but got no germination.  Maybe bad seed, bad planting?  A disappointment,  but still.

This is how it looks now:Allium w. Nepeta 20170423_142911

As the season progresses there will be Echinacea.  Then Cleome.  And next year Red Poppies (never give up!) and Verbena bonariensis.

Keep looking.

A Succession Garden

I’ve  been giving talks and writing about the subject of Succession Gardens, that is one space that has a succession of plants appearing through the season.  It’s great for a small garden, because you can have several gardens in the same small space.

The classic, of course, is bulbs.  One plants Tulips or Daffodils, and then they die down and you plant something else to – hopefully – cover their dying leaves.

I have a slightly different succession garden right outside our living/dining room, and it’s working.

Last year I planted a huge bed of Nepeta Blue WonderNepeta Blue Wonder (350 plants–this is not a small garden, just a small space within the huge garden), a very low-growing Catmint, to act as an all-summer groundcover.

Last fall I put 200 Allium aflatunense Allium aflatunensein among the Nepeta.

And a couple of weeks ago I seeded red Poppies Papaver rhoes. field.throughout the bed.

Since last year there were Cleome Cleomeeverywhere, they should have re-seeded and will be coming back.  There were also some Purple ConeflowersEchinacea purpurea, a gift from a neighbor, and they should come back and spread.  And next year I am going to seed some Verbena bonariensis alsoVerbena bonariensis.closeup.

Well, the Nepetas are looking wonderful.  I cut them back a couple of weeks ago and they are poking their little curly heads out.

The Alliums are coming up in wonderful contrast.  Their stiff vertical leaves among the curls of the Nepetas already look interesting.  By early summer the Nepetas will be in bloom.  The Alliums will bloom a few weeks later.  And the Poppies after that.  Then, when the color from the Alliums and Poppies is gone,  the Cleomes and Purple Coneflowers should start blooming.  The  bed will be full of color all season, but changing all the time.

I can’t show an image of what the whole bed will look like at once, because that is the point.  There is no “all at once”.

It will keep changing.

That is what I enjoy about Succession Planting.  In fact, that is what I enjoy about gardening.

 

 

Succession Planting

Like Moliere’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme who discovered he had been using prose all his life…I have been doing succession planting all my life.  But I only recently (a few years ago) read an article by the late Christopher Lloyd in which he named it.

What it describes is a way of having a succession of different plant ‘pictures’ in the same spot.  So as one plant either dies down for the season, or finishes flowering, another plant in the same spot comes to the fore.  Some common examples that most gardeners have seen or used are early Daffodils in the lawn, the Daffodils flowering in early spring, then disappearing as the lawn greens up; spring bulbs similarly can bring early color to the perennial border which then covers their dying leaves; early blooming sun loving plants can do well under the shade of deciduous trees – because the sun lovers get their needs fulfilled before the now-leafy trees shade the area.

Some examples I have used in past gardens (and may well use again).  Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ interplanted with Allium aflatunense.  The rich, purple balls of the Allium flowers are lovely; but the leaves always turn brown at the tips and look weather-beaten even when they’re not.  The Heuchera not only hides the unsightly leaves;  the effect is as if the Allium flower is growing from the Heuchera leaves and the colors of the leaves and flowers complement each other wonderfully.  Then by the time the Allium flowers are over, the Heuchera’s own creamy froth of flowers take over.

Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa) interplanted with Siberian Iris and Japanese Anemone.  The brilliant blue Chionodoxa bulbs make a better and better show as the years progress – and appear while the Irises are just beginning to come up in the early spring.  Then the Iris leaves and the Anemone leaves) take over the area and cover the yellowing Chionodoxa leaves.  The Irises begin to flower in June and after those flowers are over the area becomes( for a while ) a lovely contrast in green texture —  tall slim Iris leaves and Maple-like Anemone leaves.  Then by summer’s end the Anemones begin to flower until frost.

It takes some knowledge of various plants’ ‘schedules’, and yes, sometimes the planned succession doesn’t work out quite as well as it should.  But when it does l it is so much fun to watch an area change – almost  magically –over the weeks and months.