Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More Front Border

Dasylirion wheeleri in a sea of California poppies, with Echium amoenum, and Yucca rostrata

Allium globemaster with California poppies, Verbascum bombyciferum and Nolina 'La Sibirica'

More Allim Globemasters with Papaver orientale 'Bolero' amd Nasella  tenuissima
     Today I am posting more pictures of my front border at Froggy Bottom.  This area is coming into its peak season, and it is looking pretty good, if I do say so myself.  As I have explained many times before, I never water this border, and it is completely deer resistant.  This border has evolved over the years to what it is now--when I first started planting here, I planted more traditional border plants.  But, after many of them were devoured by the deer, and after I saw pictures of Beth Chatto's gravel garden, I decided to do a completely drought tolerant deer resistant border here. What you see is the result of many years of experimentation--it did not just happen overnight.
     The principles on which this border are based boil down to using a few evergreen structural plants, a few grasses, a few perennials and bulbs, and then self seeding biennials or annuals fill in for the rest.  Because so many of the plants in this border self sow, it changes a lot from year to year.  That makes it interesting and different each year.
     The evergreen plants which provide structure include the following: Nolina nelsonii, Nolina 'La Sibirica', Dasylirion texanum, Dasylirion wheeleri, Yucca rostrata, Yucca linearifolia, Rhodocoma capensis, and Rhodocoma gigantea.  I have had previous blog posts on almost all of these.
     The bulbs I use in this border include a lot of alliums, eremurus,  bulbous irises, calochortus (I would like to have more of these), eucomis, and colchicums.  I would also like to have more daffodils in the border, and if I were to continue living at Froggy Bottom, I would add a lot of them to provide early spring color.
     The perennials include many thistle-like plants, since the deer don't eat these.  They include Eryngium Big Blue, Eryngium alpinum, Eryngium bourgatii, Eryngium Sapphire Blue, and Eryngium maritimum, Echinops ritro and ruthenicus, and cardoons,  I also include some perennial poppies, including P. orientale cultivers, and P. spicatum. The deer don't seem to like poppies of any sort.  I also have a number of Echiums, including E. amoenum,  and E. russicum, as well as some biennial ones which I shall discuss presently.  I also have started to use more bearded irises and salvias (mainly Salvia transylvanica and nemerosa) in this border.  I also have a couple of different Zauschnerias, which have spread quite a bit over the years.  Finally, I include one Agastache.  If I were to live there longer, I would probably add more salvias and agastaches.  Other perennials include Lobelia tupa and Melianthus major.
     The grasses in the border are limited to three: Nasella tenuissima, Stipa gigantea, and Stipa barbata.  I explained in a previous post why I don't use any others, even though I have grown many others in the past.
     The self sowing annuals and biennials include millions of Papaver somniferum, Papaver californicum, Verbascum bombyciferum, scotch thistle (don't tell the plant police),  Echium vulgare (again, don't tell the plant police),  Echium 'Mr. Happy', and  Limnanthes douglasii. I am also trying to get some sunflowers going in the border as self sowers.  If I were to live here longer, I would try adding more California native annuals and hope to get them to self sow, much as the Limnanthes has done.  These might include Layias and Clarkias.


  1. So far no luck with Clarkias self sowing in north Kitsap but we have found baby blue-eyes (Nemophila) self sow, returning year after year, a nice understory for "California" poppies. And I can add that layias and limnanthes are hard to keep going even in CA. But my question concerning self-sowing in the Northwest is how to separate the billions of native seeds and exotic weeds from the desired self-sowers. On hands and knees? And how tall do you allow them to get before pulling them? Bare earth is required, no mulch and slightly disturbed for most Californians, but bare earth seems an oxymoron in the Northwest, or at least a serious challenge.

    1. Limnanthes have done very well in my border, spreading and coming back reliably every year. It's good to hear that nemophilia will self sow well here. The separating out of desirable self sowers from weeds is indeed the issue. What I do in this border is to weed on hands and knees, as you say. It also involves a lot of thinning or poopies, in particular. I do mulch with compost in this border, but only after I have weeded and thinned. some areas are so thick with plants that I do not mulch those areas.

  2. Well then we will try Limnanthes next year! We have found that some California plants do better here than there. Perhaps after the glaciers pushed them south, they are now trying to get back. You mentioned one. Several species & cultivars of zauchsneria are MUCH happier here than they were in our CA garden. And, regrettably, romneya are JUST as happy as they were at our former home in LA (though escaping them was not the reason we moved).