A Few Small Before & Afters

It never fails. Every autumn when the rains arrive, The Great Garden Rearrange takes place. As summer winds down I assess the overall look of the gardens, how plants are performing and which ones need a little help. Often times moving a plant solves many issues. Why move a perfectly good plant, you ask? Often, it outgrows its original location, looks poor where placed or is just not happy where it is. For these reasons and more I do a lot of rearranging, and, as autumn is gentler on the plants (cooler and wetter generally speaking), I try to wait until now. While not glamorous before and afters, it's these subtle little changes that when taken as a whole, make me a lot happier and make the garden more cohesive.

 First up, the wall of asters behind the white Achillea ptarmica 'Angel's Breath' was just too large. I stuck them in the ground last year thinking they would get about 18" high, not 4 feet.

Although beautiful and beloved by bees, they had to go. I moved them to the meadow garden, a more appropriate place with even better sun where they can grow all they like.

Here, the white Achillea in the foreground near its end for the season marks the edge of the path as seen in the first photo. Behind it, no more asters. They blocked sunshine from much of their neighbors and blocked the flow downhill from the deck. In their place I planted many Armeria maritima 'Victor Reiter' plants that will act as a low ground-cover edging the path.

 From another angle, the Achillea can be seen to the far left under a grass. To the right where a Festuca 'Beyond Blue' (in the middle) is marks the area where the asters were. Nice and airy with much more sun along the path's edge.

 Another wall of asters not far from the first. This is facing east with field grass in the foreground. These too became about 5' tall, not something you can easily see over and they too were blocking a bed of creeping thyme among many other sun-loving plants, so they had to go. I stuck three little 3" aster volunteers in the ground last year and this is what they became.

 They are just to the right of the Panicum 'Northwind'.

The panicum is in the middle, to the right are now several low-growing heathers, Erica carnea 'Rosalie'.  Much more open and to my liking.

 The sun can now reach other plants to the right of the field grass/lawn and the heathers will be an evergreen element with winter interest.

I also added this Arctostaphylos 'Sentinel' to the area. Over time, it will add airy height and structure to this "field" of heathers and creeping thymes.

This before and after pains me a little. I had 6 Geranium 'Rozanne' in the berm garden, which were by all accounts lovely for the first few months of spring/summer. 

Glowing with cheerful blue/purple flowers, what could go wrong? Well, this turns out to be a full-sun, super-hot border in high summer. They all fried to a crisp, no matter how much I watered them. I don't have a crispy photo, but trust me when I tell you they looked bad. They were moved to an area with a bit of high shade in the late afternoon, ideal for a plant that wants sun but not desert conditions.

 Enter more Erica carnea 'Rosalie'. They will handle these conditions with aplomb.

 They don't look like much now however when they fill in they will also add a soft, rounded evergreen element to this particularly challenging location.

This is what they will look like when they are a bit older. These were already here, but I moved them to this locale last year and they are doing very well.

A plant before and after. This Ozothamnus 'Sussex Silver' was given to me by fellow blogger Patricia of Plant Lust at our blogger's swap last May. It was large to begin with and I really had my doubts whether or not it would make it. I kept watering it faithfully, hoping those roots would establish themselves in my garden.

Here it is today. Beautiful new growth and a really stunning evergreen shrub.

Wonderful. I'm so pleased. There are many other such success stories in this garden, as well as casualties. Today I feel like celebrating the successes.

 As seen in July (on the left near a chicken).

One last before and after. Here is one of two new areas created when we carved out gravel paths.

 Here it is in August. Evan Bean of the great garden blog The Practical Plant Geek gave me a couple dozen Carex comans 'Frosty Curls' seedlings from his garden to get this area off to a greener start.

It has filled in a little.

 Here are the two triangle areas, both newly planted with grasses.

 From a wider shot you can get a sense of what it might look like when it fills in. The bed against the house with the carex has mature plants already. If you extend that visually you can imagine what it will look like next year, for those original carex were just planted last year and were equally small when I received them.

The other grasses on the bed centered in this photo are Festuca rubra 'Patrick's Point' from Xera Plants and Muhelbergia rigens or deer grass. I am keeping each bed simple with just one or two species to give a restful place for the eye to settle among so much garden chaos. 

My sand dunes. Carex comans 'Frosty Curls' and Miscanthus sinensis 'Cabaret' combine to give me so much joy blowing in the late-summer breezes.

A lot goes on from day to day here that goes unrecorded, and that's ok. Some little things do manage to reach my camera, however, and I think it only right that I share those little maintenance moments as well as the glamour shots. I love this time of year for the ability to tweak the garden in anticipation of how much better it is going to be next year. We are an optimistic bunch, us gardeners, aren't we? Ever adjusting, planting, rearranging, replanting, ripping out and replacing all for the day it will be "just right". I hope that day never comes.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting! We love hearing from you all. Happy gardening and rearranging!


  1. I would love to have the problem of aster that get too tall. I have never had that problem. I don't have a lot of sun in my garden and I don't have chickens. I love the use of the carex grasses. The triangles look really good. That maple (?) is glorious right now.

    1. Aah, I understand the like for tall plants. It all comes down to sun, for the most part. I love asters and have them in many places - I actually have some that are 6' tall, no kidding! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. You never considered replacing those Rozannes with some hardy Agaves? I bet they'd love that spot too. I wish I liked heaths and heathers more. I have a similar raised, well-drained, hot dry spot. That last shot of the Carex and Miscanthus looks great!

    1. Hmmm..I guess I didn't but I had a couple agaves (supposed to be hardy) in that general area and they disintegrated after last winter, so I guess I'm agave-shy. But it would have been a fabulous look. I like the heathers for their year-round looks and easy nature, no worries about freezing out but I would rather see agaves for sure.

  3. Your garden looks wonderful in every season! I had to smile when I read that you're moving plants because they got too big - in contrast, I'm generally moving plants because they're too small for the space. Those plant size predictions aren't always dependable, are they? At the other extreme, my Acacia 'Cousin Itt' has turned into a monster, swamping nearby succulents so I'm now facing moving those elsewhere.

    1. Size predictions are sketchy at best. Around here when you read a plant tag with the mature dimensions, we suggest adding 50% on to that number for most plants. I wish I could grow Acacia 'Cousin Itt' - those are so cool! But swamping nearby plants....bad acacia! One must move what swamps out another.

  4. Tracy DiSabato-Aust in her book The Well-Tended Perennial Garden, has fantastic pruning tips for asters and other perennials to keep them shorter and compact. In years past I've cut back my asters in June to keep them short. This year I didn't and man was I regretting that! Next year will be the perfect year. :)

    1. Great to know, Grace. Thank you for the information. I have cut some back before and I can say that it really does work!

  5. I'm impressed you got that Ozothamnus through the summer! It looks so happy now. I've been tweaking the garden, too. Lots of changes still to make! Heaths and heathers are such great, tough plants. That reminds me that I still want to find a good, dark-flowered cultivar for the garden. This is the first I've seen your new blog format. I like it!

    1. Aren't plants amazing? Yes, still lots of changes on my radar too, Evan. I was considering a trip out to Highland Heathers - if you ever want to go, let's do it!

    2. Oh, yeah! Let me know when you want to go!

  6. I love Before & Afters! So much hope to them.
    I've definitely noted Achillea Angel's Breath and Erica Rosalie--new Wants! Your carex beds are gorgeous. What is the red-flowered spiller over the concrete wall by the newly-planted Rosalie Ericas?

    1. Aren't Before & Afters fun? These don't have much visual impact yet, but the process is important to note how I got from A to B to C (for my own sanity). The red spiller is Zauschneria californica! Isn't that one you picked out from Joy Creek the other day? You must really like that plant! It's a good one.

  7. I enjoy before and afters. We've been making some changes to our garden this year too (beyond our typical rearranging). I love making those changes and looking forward to the next growing season.


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