~ How to Revamp a Difficult Garden Bed ~

Posted: October 28, 2021 in creativity, Do-it-yourself, gardening, home, home maintenance, Whanau
Tags: , , ,

Do you have a garden bed that is in a difficult spot in your garden? Our rockery in the backyard is in a challenging position. Located behind the house, it offers drought and flood and full shadow for most of the day. Previously, we had had a dragon tree in the rockery and a young native tree that was already much too large. The job of transforming the rockery became my “lockdown project.” Change it. I would. And, here’s what I did.
The first casualty was the young tree. With the potential to grow into a grand chieftain, I removed it from the rockery, leaving a long oval-shaped dry bed featuring a lone dragon tree at one end and a spindly sapling at the other. The proposition of making this awkward bed into ‘something’ was daunting. With gardening, you have to attempt to forecast into the future how plants will grow and envisage the potential outcome. In the end, you throw the dice and leave it up to nature. Who dares, wins, right?

I started by simply clearing the weeds and scraping off years of detritus to reduce the bed to a blank canvas. The old bricks which had formed the edging had sunk into the ground over time, nearly disappearing in the mud. I dug these out, cleaning them as I went. Then I packed soil around the edges of the bed, putting the bricks back on top, thereby lifting the edging clear.
There are a few ways to go about laying the foundations of a garden bed. You can plant intensely and not worry about weeds. Or you can set down weed matting, adding bark. Or you can do what the landscapers do, lay a layer of bark at least 400 mm deep so the weeds can not grow.

In the case of the rockery, when I tried to lift the top layer of weed matting, I discovered another, even older layer of matting much farther down. So rather than excavating, I opted to leave the matting in place. If you use a weed mat, you will need to add blood and bone to the soil to correct the PH balance of the soil before adding the mat and the bark on top. So I treated every plant with a good dose of blood and bone mixed in with the potting mix.
My father built the rockery wall out of bluestone in the early 1960s. He needed a retaining wall to create a flatter area in our sloping back garden. The wall was higher than it is now, but over the years, the top tier of bluestone had been robbed out and used elsewhere.

One of my first jobs was to hunt out the rogue bluestones from every corner of the property. Then I lay the stones across the bed to create a stepping stone path, imagining my grandchildren hopping from stone to stone one day.
The rockery is a raised bed. Therefore, it’s helpful to use drought-tolerant plants. Cacti and succulents are ideal. Being situated in the lee of the house, I also needed plants that could handle shade. Ask at your local garden centre for suitable plants for the conditions in your bed. In our case, I planted a line of Buxus hedge trees, which are hardy. Along the front of the rockery bed, I dug in yellow grasses for colour and contrast.
To square off with the lone dragon tree in one corner, I moved my ponytail palm from the front bed into the rockery. Being at the other end of the bed to the lone dragon tree, it makes sense. Huzzah!

Then I planted a dwarf apricot tree. My sister donated a hydrangea, and I planted a few of my mother’s orchids. If you choose to plant an orchid, use the proper potting mix (similar to bark). They do well in the shade.
I still had a gnarly stump in the rockery and an unwieldy section of the tree trunk that was too big to cut with a chainsaw. In the case of immovable obstacles, why not turn them into features? Beneath the dragon tree, I set the section of the trunk upright. Then I turned both the stump and the trunk into wood sculptures by decorating them with my father’s aerophytes (air plants) and rocks.

The last stage of the transformation was to spread bark in between the plants and the stones. I think it looks great. Yesterday, my three-year-old granddaughter came over to visit. When we took a walk in “Nana’s garden,” she automatically dashed over and hopped from stone to stone across the rockery bed. It was a wonderful moment.
I hope you have gained some inspiration for your difficult garden beds. Let me know your stories.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt

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Comments
  1. I once tackled a rockery on a sloping site. Like you, I had hauled large rocks from around the property and dug them in. The garden looked great when I planted it out. The sun was too intense and the soil unstable, and eventually only one hardy plant survived. It looks as if yours will be successful. Lovely to see your granddaughter enjoying the stepping stones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Wow, what a shame. All your hard work, Vivienne! I am watching the rockery plants like a hawk, let me tell you. I saw a show once about a woman who planted a fertile vegetable garden in the desert in Egypt. She kept the plants thriving by “drip watering.” A hose with a hole in it for each plant gave the plants a drip of water occasionally, and that was enough to keep them growing. I use a similar idea, in that I give each plant a small splash each morning and evening. It’s amazing how well they do on such a small amount of water. Of course, I haven’t had to water for a while as it has rained so much lately. On the flip side, I have had to monitor them because of the rain in case they get too waterlogged. It’s definitely a bit of a battle until they get established. But, I am optimistic. And, yes, I was so pleased I managed to get a photo of my granddaughter. A lovely moment.

      Like

  2. Keith says:

    Yvette, I am impressed, in general, but specifically by relocating the blue stones. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

  3. cleemckenzie says:

    That was a great way to resolve a difficult space and to create something beautiful to enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

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