Garden Re-Imagining

So I have been talking about how I like to use plants as living mulch. This idea is gaining traction with some popular garden design books, most recently the very well received Planting in a Post Wild World.


This is what that looks like in various parts of my yard where it is already established. Here is my rose garden around my mailbox. The “living mulch” is catmint “Walker’s Low” and golden hops.

This is a raised bed–actually a bed created on top of my driveway and behind a stone wall about 5′ high. The bed is so large that it contains a native dogwood that was planted when the house was built–so 60 years ago. There are numerous other shrubs in there are well, including one of several Japanese maples on the property. While it faces east, because of the dogwood, it is mostly shaded. I am encouraging moss and the ferns that have naturally begun springing up to cover the rest. While it is still in progress, it is progressing quite well and is a lovely, shady oasis.


My “wildlife” garden, which is a mix of native and non-native shrubs and perennials, is also a work in progress. Most of it has filled in nicely and needs no wedding or cultivating each year.


The front corner has never managed to do well, however. It is on the northeast side of the bed–perhaps it’s too shaded by the other parts of the bed, or by overhanging trees. Whatever the reason, I have replanted it several times already. So needless to say, I haven’t managed to get any sort of perennial ground cover in there yet–unless you count the grass!


In fact, as I was on my hands and knees patiently weeding out all the grass before replanting, I overheard a couple walking by. The man remarked to the woman “That’s why perennials are better…” The rest of his comment was lost to me as they continued on. Just as well. Little does he know that annuals have never graced this bed. Perhaps little does he know, period, or he’d see that the entire rest of the bed is perennials, and shrubs.


In any event, here is the result of my weekend planting. Two swamp milkweed, two agastche, two liatris, three black-eyed susans, a mountain mint and a tanacetum (apparently I never learned the rule that everything needs to be planted in 3s!) There’s a dwarf Joe Pye weed yet to come, but a rabbit nibbled it down to a stalk and I have to wait for it to regenerate to “garden” size.

And yes, everything is spaced much closer than the “rules” say they should be on the tag. How else will I ever get my living mulch (and shade this ground so all that dreadful grass doesn’t grow back?)

After all, these are perennials–they can always be divided later–provided this time this corner really does grow!

And also, remembering my post from Monday, these are all pretty much blues, yellows or oranges–good butterfly attracting colors, of course, but also now my “preferred” garden palette. We’ll see how it turns out.

4 thoughts on “Garden Re-Imagining

  1. Phyllis June 11, 2018 / 1:24 pm

    Everything looks beautiful in your garden and I especially love those gorgeous fern. My front lawn is completely replaced with oregano and lemon balm. Although I didn’t plan it, these two herbs have reseeded themselves everywhere and it’s quite nice to me. Lawn lovers would not approve, but I find it so natural and no maintenance.

    • gardendaze June 11, 2018 / 1:32 pm

      A lawn of oregano and lemon balm sounds wonderful and I bet the pollinators think so too! I am sure the scent is just amazing.


  2. tonytomeo June 12, 2018 / 12:42 am

    I wrote about living mulch quite a while ago. It is not as practical here because we still need to water. I like to use pelaragoniums (weedy zonal geraniums) because they just plug in over autumn and grow like weeds the following spring. I just take cuttings from those that get pruned back at the same time. They do not cost anything, but really do a lot for the soil. When I want the space for something else, I just pull the pelargoniums up and mulch them, or use cuttings somewhere else.

  3. gardendaze June 12, 2018 / 5:57 am

    It’s interesting that a lot of us been doing this, in our own way, for quite some time. I remember you telling me about using the geraniums as a living mulch.

    What I find interesting about that (well, so many things, really! I don’t think, the first time, that you specified that they were the “annual” type, as we would think of them here, so I was thinking of the perennial geraniam when you mentioned it), is that here perennial geraniums are often used as living mulch. I don’t do it much because I don’t have a lot of sun and without that, they rot in my heavy clay soil.

    I also find it interesting that you leave your annuals in over winter and they grow! I leave mine in as well–but of course they die for me. Then, I will just either compost the dead tops in the spring ( if they’re really woody) or leave them where they rotted. I don’t mulch with my heavy clay and I try not to do to much tilling up.


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