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New Beds

Master gardener Paul James discusses two of his most recent garden plans, one of which utilizes a dry-stream bed to relieve drainage problems.

Don't you love it when things go according to plan? Master gardener Paul James discusses two of his most recent garden plans, one of which utilizes a dry-stream bed to relieve drainage problems (figure A).

Last fall he began creating a new bed at the front of his property, one designed to resolve some serious drainage problems. "And it's turning out rather nicely. In fact, it's my new favorite bed," he says.

Figure B

The garden consists of a lot of limestone, which creates focal points and planting areas, and a dry-stream bed. While the 515-pound piece of driftwood (figure B) prominently featured in the bed was no easy task to move, James was thrilled with the results. He created this bed primarily to divert rainwater from three directions into a storm drain beneath the huge hunk of driftwood. "And it works pretty well. In fact, last week we had four inches of rain in one hour, and I had very little flooding."

Figure C

He also cut a channel into the driveway to catch rainwater from his neighbor's yard to the east (figure C). The channel connects to a four-inch pipe that runs under the dry-stream bed and into the drain, and the dry-stream bed itself catches any overflow from that direction. Water flowing from the north is funneled into the first dry stream, while water from the west flows into a second stream.

Figure D

Drainage isn't the only feature highlighted in this multifaceted bed. For example, James recently transplanted a clump of Fargesia bamboo (figure D). This shade-tolerant, weeping beauty doesn't run, and at its base, James planted a few clumps of Japanese hakone grass. The weeping grass foliage is a perfect complement to the bamboo, and its golden color brightens up the shady spot, too. Because the area is full shade for the majority of the day, James also uses a number of autumn ferns, which are nearly evergreens in his neck of the woods.

Figure E

"The new foliage of these ferns is a beautiful bronze (figure E) while the mature foliage is green," says James. "And I love the way they soften the stone."

Figure F

There are several clumps of mondo grass (Ophiopogon) and a hellebore that features deeply cut foliage. A little bit of Lysimachia goes a long way (figure F).

The bed includes a few 'Neon Light' Tiarellas that the slugs are enjoying; a tall, slender monkshood; a leopard plant; a Brunnera 'Jack Frost,' and some Ajuga 'Black Scallops'.

Figure J

Like most of the plants in this new bed, this 'Gold Heart' bleeding heart (figure J) is readily available at nurseries all across the country).

Figure K

"That's not necessarily true of this weeping spruce that I absolutely adore (figure K)," James says. "I also adore a Japanese maple, largely because it cascades beautifully over a boulder." James got it at a discount from the nursery because no one wanted such an oddly shaped maple.

Figure L

This spot needs a little tweaking (figure L), so James adds some 'Lady in Red' ferns here and there. These one-gallon, shade-loving beauties because they are easy to plant and should take quickly to this area, spreading slowly over the course of several years. To keep them company, James plants a few staghorn sumacs (Rhus typhina). "These will give the back portion of the new garden area a bit of height," says James. "But because they are so airy, they won't obstruct the view. And speaking of views, I'll be able to look at and admire these sumacs from just about any and every location in my landscape, and that's a good thing, especially with the fall colors aglow."

Virtually all these plants, once established, require next to nothing in the way of maintenance. With few exceptions, they're rarely bothered by pests and diseases. "Of course there were those slugs on my Tiarellas but I've already dealt with them." Maintenance was a very important consideration in the bed's design, because this isn't an area where James spends a lot of time. In addition, the bed is fully irrigated, so with the touch of a button James can water when necessary.

Figure M

A new bed along the driveway that James started just a couple of months ago was completely redesigned with some boulders and a number of choice evergreens. "I must say that I'm really pleased with the way this bed is coming along." Only recently he added a few more plants and other things just to touch it up a bit: a dwarf Pennisetum, or fountain grass, called 'Hamelin' (figure M), and next to it a little Chamaecyparis in a pot.

Figure N

Another Pennisetum in the bed is the popular purple fountain grass (figure N).

Figure O

This Artemisia, or wormwood(figure O), isn't the familiar gray or silver version. The colors of this variegated version, called 'Limelight', creates contrast with the surrounding plants.

Figure P

"And for a touch of whimsy, I planted five dwarf sunflowers (figure P) to cheerily greet guests as they walk up the driveway." Two non-plant additions include this urn and some cut timber bamboo, which provide the garden with some height and additional interest.

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