August 2, 2010

The ‘Wisteria Bed’, Reborn

I wrote a few months ago about the demise of the wisteria ‘tree’ that had once graced an otherwise unremarkable corner of our lawn. The earlier incarnation of the site is shown at right.  Several readers asked, ‘Well, what replaced it?’ The answer can be seen immediately below.   (You can double click on any of the photos on the post to get a much more detailed look at individual plants.)
Let’s start with the site – a roughly 15’x15’ space where our driveway, driveway turnaround, and nursery bed meet, backed by the woods that separate us from our neighbors. It gets very good light from dawn until noon, after which the pines and oaks behind it put the area in shade for the balance of the day. The location remained lawn for so long because of the reality that snow from the two driveway pieces has to be pushed somewhere. Tall shrubs would be problematic.

We took up all the grass except for a three-foot wide strip that serves the dual purpose of a walkway around the back of the nursery bed and a visual divider for the two halves of the new bed. The soil was dug down twelve inches and heavily amended. The topsoil in a foot-wide strip adjoining the driveway was removed to a depth of fifteen inches and replaced with rocks. The rock border, in turn, helps prevent ponding on the driveway during rainstorm and snow melt.

We chose six low-growing shrubs to anchor the site: three very hardy ilex that could withstand having snow dumped on them and three miniature kalmia (mountain laurel) that, while technically within the snow-throw zone, are far enough back to be protectable.

The balance of the bed is planted with perennials, the centerpiece of which is a hosta ‘Krossa Regal’ that when in flower as it is now, stands more than four feet tall. This particular hosta outgrew a pot that had been its home for several years. There are ten other (morning) sun-tolerant hostas including a collection of miniatures that will eventually soften the rock border. Other perennials include tiarella (foam flower), ferns and a nicely mounding aruncus; one of the few that look good after they’ve bloomed.

The wisteria bed flows naturally into two adjoining planting areas. The larger of the two contains three now-large clumps of Kirengeshoma (Japanese wax bells) and Hakonechola macra ‘Aureola’ (Golden Japanese forest grass); the smaller a slowly spreading stand of persicaria ‘Golden Arrow’, a summer-blooming azalea (Weston’s ‘Pink Diamond’) and a peony.

The accompanying photos show a young bed. Most of these plants have been on site for a year or less. A photo taken a year from today would show a few pockets of mulch; one taken in August two years hence would show no mulch at all.


  1. I saw your comment in the WSJ today "Gardening without a sprinkler" and thought - great idea - we have a utility easement as well - that has a foot wide strip of weeds due to salt and road chemicals from winter plowing. No matter what I plant, nothing wants to grow there.
    Having just read your blog - I will start looking for some of the plants you mention in your blog. Thanks very much -
    RE the green beans - try the thin ones - they are delicious and you can eat more before you are full. Right now we are overwhelmed with sweet corn and tomatoes - and starting tomorrow it will be the soybeans. No zucchini thanks very much - even one vine is one too many
    And I will sign my name as "The reluctant gardener" in northeast MA

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.