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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Down the Drive - Part 1

A few days ago there was a comment on one of my posts from Jessica Damiano . She writes a blog, GardenDetective for our local newspaper. Jessica asked what flowers I grow along my driveway, particularly in the photo I have as the opening shot of my blog.

It's a really good question, in total there are hundreds of different plants growing out there any given year. That list changes from year to year as some perennials are just shorter lived and I forget to go out and replace them. Looking at these photos I find that I want them all back!

The top photo is the only photo of my garden I've ever printed out and framed. It was taken at the apex of my gardening life (so far) in July of 2006 when 10 tour buses and a total of 600 visitors came here over a 4 day time period. The minute the first tour bus arrived I actually cried tears of joy.

Our house is set in an unusual fashion compared to other homes in our part of Long Island. We are set back about 250 feet deep into our 1.3 acre lot. The driveway sweeps and curves so it runs almost 275 feet long.

There were only two owners here before us, we don't know who installed this rock wall at the entrance. The story we heard is that these boulders were dug up right here when the foundation for the house was built. In my opinion the entrance is too narrow, sometimes people won't drive down our driveway and other's have misjudged the turn and left a few paint chips on those rocks. The beds out here are in full shade and battle tree roots and lack of water but come summer they are chock full of Hosta and other shade plants.

The lowest end of the driveway has a large parking area, this place just eats gravel up. Winter snows are havoc on the gravel as snow plows or snow blowers always end up removing a layer of stone. In the past few years prices of gravel has skyrocketed here, phooey.

This is the view from our breezeway out to the street. It's a few years old now, that bed right in the front of the photo has been replaced with some much needed hardscape. The photo gives you a good idea of the gardens out front.

Right in the middle is my sunniest garden. It runs 120' long, about 8 feet wide in most spots. It's probably the bed that I work the most in, I just love to sit out there and putter.

On the left of this photo is the first garden we had made here. It gets full sun in the morning but some parts are shaded by 1:00 pm and other spots can have light as late as 3:00pm. I still treat most of it as a sun bed although in the last few years the surrounding trees have really made me have to rethink this whole plan. This bed is 75 or 80 feet long (not for long, serious plans are in place to add to this planting) and about 15 feet deep.

In late May we always had the most glorious Wisteria blooming on our telephone pole. If you have to have a telephone pole in your garden, disguising it becomes a huge issue! Unfortunately the Wisteria squeezed just a bit too much and the pole was a bit too rotten because two years ago the base of the pole just exploded out and we needed an emergency pole-ectomy. Sadly, the Wisteria was cut down instantly and although it still makes feeble attempts at putting up suckers, I haven't decided yet to let it head back up the new pole.

It's obvious to us that it was one of the previous owners who installed the belgium block border along the driveway as it was not professionally done. Still, the cost to rip it up and do it over is mind-boggling and unless we win the lottery, the driveway will stay just as it is.

When choosing plant material to plant along the front border of these beds, I look for plants with awesome foliage, contrasting foliage, good blooms, and cascading habits. Early spring is dominated by billowy mounds of a low growing Nepeta mussini, a number of hardy Geranium varieties and fluffy yellow pillows of Euphorbia polychroma. There are also clumps of various Sedums, silver fuzzy Stachys byzantine and tall spires of Digitalis (foxgloves) everywhere.

One of my favorite garden volunteers is a plant named Silene armeria. At first I thought it was an annual but now I'd classify it as a biennial. The foliage for this years blooms are there right now, today, March 1st and it looks almost untouched by the winter. In early spring those little green leaves shoot up thin stems with sticky bands on them (they're nicknamed "catch-fly"). Just one plant wouldn't put on much of a show but I have hundreds of them in waves all down the border. They aren't aggressive at all, they never shade out or push away another perennial. They just seem to fit in to any tiny open spot. This year I'm going to pot some up for our plant sale because I've never seen them in any other garden, ever.

This photo is a good example of how I try to choose plant based on their foliage. There are huge clumps of Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb', seas of Sedums (many have lost their names at this point) and spikes of Liriope.

The middle of the beds are filled with more daylilies than most people could imagine, over 100 in each bed. But daylilies aren't all, there are other taller perennials that reign in the center of the beds. This is Helianthus 'Summer Nights' which has dark red stems and a very long bloom season.

Last year I was thrilled to find that this lovely perennial self sows and the babies all have those delicious dark stems so they'll be potted up too for the plant sale. I already tried with a few last year and they handled the process quite well. A bit floppy but I think I just dug them too late in the spring and too close to our summer heat.

Tomorrow I'll put together a bunch of photos of the individual plants in the driveway borders. I'll never remember them all but I'll try to catch the stars.


PondPlant Girl said...

You blog is wonderful! I would very much like to post your blog on my website!


robbinscabin said...

Amazing and so in depth! It gives us a really good look at how to create beautiful driveway gardens ~ something that is often overlooked in garden writing/blogging. What an inspiration!

lintys said...

so lovely!

I wish I lived close enough to attend your plant sales!

Robin's Nesting Place said...

What a beautiful, welcoming drive! I bet you just love arriving back home after an outing.

Anna--Flowergardengirl said...

I cried--I really did. That's how much joy a garden such as yours brings to me. I needed to see that right now. I need a hope and inspiration piece that will hold me till I get mine built again. I'm such a big fan of rock too. Thank you for such a treat. I will be back over and over to look at it.

Rosehaven Cottage said...


I'm so glad you dropped by Rosehaven Cottage so I could come over and discover your blog! Your garden is beautiful. I'm so envious that you have a lot large enough to be set back from the road 250 feet! That must be wonderful!!!!!

Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

Connie said...

You have a lovely place and a lovely blog. I grew Silene ameria last year, and loved it as well. I love the look of 'Summer's Night', but might it be Heliopsis instead of Helianthus? Did you buy it as a plant? I would like to try growing from seed if I can find a source. The red stems are very attractive.

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

Wow, you garden is beautiful. What a great use of a long driveway.

Dave said...

Wow. It makes me wishing my driveway was longer so I could do similar things! That must have been a great feeling to have that many people stopping by to visit the product of your work. I like the stone, even the Belgium block. With it wearing down it gives you that old-world feel. California said...

I love seeing gardens in other parts of the country and yours is exceptionally beautiful!

Your dog is so cute! I have a black Lab that would love to met her.

Thanks for sharing.

Melanie said...

A big star to Connie, yes, it is Heliopsis "Summer Nights". I bought this as an established plant in a pot but I do think that if you can find the seeds that it would be easy to grow.

All of you are so nice and complimentary! I have to be truthful and say that at first I found this long driveway quite daunting. It took a few years before I felt comfortable with the front gardens.

lintys, the plant sale here really is great. We do almost no advertising other than a sign on our front lawn the week before but we get an amazing amount of return customers. They know that every year there are different things for sale depending on how the season has been for us. Many times people stop buy while I'm working out there the week before the sale and I will usually dig something special if there is enough.

Pam/Digging said...

God, what a lot of space you have to garden in. Your whole landscape is just lovely, and so is the low rock wall at the end of the drive, even if you find it is too narrow. Thanks for showing us the long shots.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for giving the names of your featured plants. I am a gardener who makes lists which I use when planning a flower bed or border.
Great photos, too.
Chris, in upstate NY