July 12, 2011

Paring Down the Front Yard Perennial Palette

I knew this would happen eventually . . . if I crammed too many different plants into the front garden, some of them would have to go away after a while. But how to resist trying out one more plant here and another one there when they might be perfect for the final design? So try them out I did, and now I'm paring back.

The original plan for the front was a light pink and white color scheme, inspired by the Eglantyne roses shown in the first two pictures. The white lost out a while ago to lavender. Then peach and touches of soft yellow were added in the form of daylilies and 'Abraham Darby' roses, plus light blue iris. Dark violet joined in for a while, but now it's getting the boot to leave me with a purely pastel scheme.

So here's the tally of keepers and movers. Though the corkscrew rushes (Juncus spiralis) are staying, the 'Marcus' sages (Salvia) in the background were removed this week. A couple went to the backyard, and a few more went to our neighbors across the street.

This is a sturdy, pretty sage, but the dark violet color didn't work with the other front yard colors in my eyes. And as other plants keep growing, there won't be enough room for the sages soon anyway.

I also moved the dark violet 'Banbury Ruffles' dwarf iris to the backyard, though there is still plenty of lavender creeping phlox ('Emerald Cushion Blue' - in the background) left to bloom next May.

To fill the spots left by 'Banbury Ruffles, light blue 'Eramosa Skies' dwarf iris were divided and replanted to make five or six clumps around the front yard.

I transplanted the 'Fragrant Lavender' iris (above) to the backyard and instead planted three groupings of light blue full-sized iris. The new iris ('Rapture in Blue') are similar in color to the the 'Eramosa Skies' dwarf iris, but they bloom several weeks afterward to continue the light blue part of the scheme.

There's still plenty of lavender in the form of 'Walker's Low' catmint (Nepeta - above) and 'Rozanne' hardy geraniums. The catmints should have been divided this spring, but it didn't happen. So five of the eight plants are HUGE right now and spreading out all over their neighbors.

This year I was excited to see the first blooms on the 'Just Because' siberian iris. The flowers aren't quite pastel, but getting them started in my sandy flower bed soil has been such a chore that I'm not giving up on them now! Last year I lost several baby plants that didn't get enough water while their roots were still getting established.

As for the pink part of the scheme, I divided the delightful and early-blooming 'Pink Bubbles' iris to make three clumps around the front yard. They look especially nice next to the catmint.

I also found places to make three clumps of 'In Love Again' iris, which start blooming just as 'Pink Bubbles' finishes up. Having several groupings of the same kinds of iris should tie the whole front yard together better.

Sometime soon the 'Tiny Todd' dwarf asiatic lilies will be removed and given away. Their pale color looks washed out in the summer sun. They started blooming at the same time as the roses and pink iris and seem to clutter the picture. Focal points are part of good design, but they don't happen if you have too much going on at once.

Now the daylilies and 'Pink Double Delight' coneflowers (Echinacea) are starting to bloom. The dark rose-colored mums were removed and given away this week, so they won't be blooming in the fall. But there's plenty of color to come, as the coneflowers, catmint and 'Rozanne' geraniums (in background above with 'Otto Luyken' laurel in foreground) will keep flowering until frost, plus another heavy flush of roses in September, plus the colchicum and autumn crocus . . . and the lilyturf blooms, can't forget those. Anyway, plenty of color ahead, despite the reduced palette.


  1. You have a lot of beautiful flowers but I can understand your decisions and it sounds like good ones. Atleast you are putting those beautiful Iris somewhere else in the yard.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. The colour combination is gorgeous! I love the peachy Irises, very pretty and romantic.

    I was happy to see the Nepeta 'Wlakers Low', I planted some under my red and orange rose bed where I have William Shakespeare, Mr. Lincoln, Black Boy, Just Joey and William Morris. Not exactly a consistent theme, but they should all look good with the nepeta! Thanks for sharing your BEAUTIFUL photos!

  3. Gorgeous blooms! Those irises are stunning.

    You have lovely flowers, but I know all about paring down--more because of our climate than design reasons. With our triple digit heat last summer and again this summer, I need to consolidate the best plants into two gardens and minimize the maintenance (watering) in outer areas. Even xeric plants get thirsty after awhile!

  4. Your sandy soil must be a good place for the irises and catmint and all those other beauties. Nice to have the color groupings so well planned.
    Your plants are beautiful.

  5. I love your pink, ruffly bearded irises. You have an amazing talent for restraint. Something I sadly lack. :)

  6. How lovely to find your post (thanks to my friend Charlotte G). I love your simplified plant palette - your taste in colors is quite exquisite. And you're quite the photographer, too!

  7. The pastel combination of pink, lavender and pale blue is very pretty. Are your daylilies also in the pink/lavender color range? (I have quite a few pink daylilies in my garden, but they usually begin blooming a bit later than the yellow, orange, and red ones.) -Jean

  8. You are so exact about your colors! It is interesting for me to see how differently you garden: I am primarily a plant collector, and don't strive for perfectly color coordinated schemes, while you seem to have gorgeous colors, and repetition and continuity of bloom. I hope you will post more full garden shots, your garden must look spectacular.

  9. Tiny Todd had good color in my yard. Maybe it just needs a change of partnering. Mine is growing between a mound of scabiosa. I have seen so many Siberian iris in bloom. My bloom, then drop quickly. Maybe too much sum for them and I should move them.

  10. Masha, I'd consider myself a plant collector as well, but I studied design principles in college classes and my eyes want to see them in action in my garden. So the backyard is getting filled up with whatever doesn't fit into the front and west designs for now. It's a fun challenge to reach for it all - favorite plants making focal points with good supporting players, continuity of bloom, plus pleasing form and color combos. I loved organizing the crayon box by color when I was a kid - now I do the same in my flower beds :-)

  11. I so wish I had your discipline to pare down my flowers. It is a smart thing to do but that 'Marcus' sage would have to be a keeper somewhere in my garden. It's stunning.

  12. absolute stunner!the Pink Bubble Iris is so refined - it takes my breath... bravo! and a Happy New Year!

  13. Really gorgeous color palette! I need to move things around more than I do, I am also interested in creating micro-palettes around the garden. I'd love to trade some iris with you some time! :)


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