Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Patio Garden

I talked about building my new Secret Patio last week, so I thought I'd talk about the garden itself this week. There is still one more post concerning this garden, but I'll post it tomorrow.

The soil that was excavated from the hole for the patio itself was turned and spread around the patio itself in order to create a garden area. While I am lucky with my soil in that it is not too clayey, I find it best to build up gardens rather than going down. This was the case in this area. There are some mature trees around and I am pretty sure they extend to this area, so I went up with the soil, but I did turn the existing sod prior to adding the extra soil. The few inches of extra soil added here will not hurt the surrounding trees and will make an ideal garden area.

Since the soil excavated and moved contained some turf, I not only turned it over, but amended it with organic matter such as coffee grounds and rabbit 'beans', and then covered both beds with lots of newspapers, leaf mold, and hay to hold the leaf mold in place. The coffee grounds and rabbit pellets will provide a good source of nitrogen for microbes to work on decomposing the grass, and the newspapers will ensure the grass rots by blocking the light. This is a good procedure I have used many times on new gardens. It works well for me.

This picture simply illustrates a part of the pre-existing garden. Since the area slopes slightly to the west, I had to compensate for the slope in this raised bed. Nothing grows in the bed since it holds two oak trees and a cedar tree; which make the soil so root bound that it dries out too quickly to support good growth on any plants. However, I added some soil and the bricks to raise the bed up a bit, and planted a 'Tamukeyama' Japanese Maple. This is one of two which are planted around the Secret Patio. The 'Tamukeyama' is a weeping Japanese maple. I already had a 'Crimson Queen' weeping Japanese maple, but added these two when I found them marked down to only $15 for a 3 gallon pot at a Home Depot in Maine last fall. Yes, they traveled back from Maine in the back of our truck. What a trip! Good thing they were and still are dormant. I also planted one for my mother in her Maine garden. I so hope it does well for her. This area of my garden where my small trees are planted are on the downhill slope, I expect moisture will be fairly adequate here but will watch them closely. If they do not work in this garden, I will surely move them.
The patio area is in a partly sunny area. It probably will only get about 2 hours of sun max. You see this area is surrounded by mature oaks and faces west where some more mature oaks grow. There is a gap in between the oaks to the east and the oaks to the west so the area directly above the patio is fairly open. I am thrilled with the area and its light. I think light is very important in a garden and one must first always determine the light the garden receives, and of course, the type of soil the garden contains. Since this area is mostly shade and I had planned from the very beginning to install a very special tree in it, I have planned for mostly shade perennials. Some of the perennials planted here are: Tiarella Foam Flower, Bergenia 'Perfecta', Leucothoe 'Rainbow', Candytuft, foxgloves, Yellow Twig dogwood, and a 'Rocky Mountain' penstemon. I am still in the process of adding perennials. Hostas will join the mix, as well as heucheras, a Night Blooming Jasmine (aka Cerastum nocturnum), Star Magnolia (Royal Star), several oakleaf hydrangeas, some annuals, and who knows what else? You can see many of the new plants in the picture above. I also added several daffodils into the mix.

In case you did not guess the 'pigsqueak' plant I mentioned in my Patio Post, it is Bergenia cordifolia. It is Carolyn Gail's Signature plant. She blogs at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago. I used to grow bergenias in Germany and really liked them. I am not sure how they will do in the heat and humidity of our southern climate, but I'm willing to give it a try since all I've read on the bergenias say they are quite adaptable to moist or dry soils. We will most likely have the dry soils. I am hoping that the fact I have them sited under a special tree in the shade will help it even more to withstand our summers. This plant is evergreen and changes color in the winter. It turns a red/maroon and I just love it. I was fortunate to find a bunch of these at a favorite nursery in Indiana where the kind owner let me have them at 50% off since they were left over from last fall. He told me, "They are still good though." A very nice elderly gentleman who was adamant these plants were still good; which of course I knew. If any of you all ever travel to Evansville, Indiana, or there are readers in this area, do check out Hillside Commercial Landscaping just outside of Evansville on St. Joseph's Avenue. I love this place and posted about it before.

While at the nursery I was ever so fortunate to find my long sought after tree. It is a special tree for me and one I had planned would grace this garden way before I even began building the patio. More on it tomorrow, but I'll leave you with some hints to get you thinking about this tree.

This tree is: native to the United States, can be grown as a tree or shrub, blooms white in the spring, is small to medium sized with a moderate life span, its roots are not invasive, its bark is quite thin, it grows blue/black berries that are delicious for humans and birds, and is a highly recommended tree for street side and residential plantings alike. It is susceptible to some pests and diseases since it is in the Rosaceae famiy, so it is not a perfect tree.

I bet this will be a very easy tree to guess if you are of the mind to do so. I'll post the answer tomorrow.

in the garden....

Don't forget about Skeeter's contest.


  1. Rabbit beans, too funny. I know from experience that beds with big trees in them do poorly as the roots will quickly find the new good soil for themselves.

  2. Yay! Newspaper! I use it to kill grass, putting soil/compost directly on top and then leaf or hardwood mulch on top of that. And I miss rabbit "beans"--I had a friend who had rabbits once and that stuff was awesome in my compost!!

  3. Looks good! Where do you get your supply of rabbit beans? We have rabbits (the wild kind) but I doubt I can ask them to come over to make a deposit!

    (Serviceberry maybe?)

  4. Your patio is really shaping up. I am reading with envy-- oakleaf hydrangeas ,they aren't salt tolerant. :-( Your garden sounds beautiful. The yellow twig dogwood really stands out nicely.
    I am not sure on your tree...will have to ponder a bit. The ones I am thinking of are not edible, so I can't push my brain past those. Have a great day.

  5. Hi...Love the developing garden and you have chosen fantastic companion plants! I think it is a serviceberry, not sure which one! Have a delightful day in your garden~~gail

  6. Hey all! Long time no post.

    Tina, glad to hear that the garden is coming along. I like the idea of a small patio and it, too, seems like it is in a decent place to enjoy the yard.

    Saw Christine this weekend. She's doing well and we were able to go out and see some sights of San Antonio.

    Here's some pictures: [sorry I couldn't get a direct upload so either copy/paste or click a link if it shows up.

    Hope all everyone is doing well.

    Oh, and one more thing...

    Is it an Elderberry tree?

  7. This area is going to be beautiful. I'm glad you mentioned how much sun it got..that was going to be one of my questions. There is really lots you can do with shaded areas. I can't wait to see more pictures!

  8. Good morning all! All good guesses! I'll post on the tree tomorrow.

    Mountain Man, Yes! I bet you had a good time this weekend! I hope the pics come up. If not, mail them to my email at: On my way to check them now.

  9. Mountain Man, Yes! They look great, but I could not download them. Will you email them to me when you get the chance?

  10. I sent you the link to where they're hosted via email.

    (o_0) It's been so long that I forgot my moniker!

  11. Hi Tina, your project has me thinking about adding a tiny sitting area under my huge maple. It's wasted space anyway because nothing grows there. I'll have to consider the impact of a few flagstones on the tre's root system.

    I think I know what your new tree is--I'll find out tomorrow;)

  12. Tina I always "garden up", if I'm dealing with ornamentals; it's easier than tilling and works just as well.

    I know what your tree is: it's a Serviceberry!

  13. Tina,

    Informative story on your patio garden area. I look forward to seeing the area through the seasons!


  14. I'm stumped on the mystery tree and can't wait to see the answer. The secret patio is coming along well!
    Happy day~

  15. Just yesterday I told David that maybe I should move the tree you bought and planted as I am not sure if it is too close to the house or not. It looks good, has buds on it so will have leaves in another month or less.

    Hey Jay, glad you had a good time. but then I knew you would. If you can email me the pics also I would love it.

  16. I love Japanese Maples too. I have a few but only one weeping one. I have had it about 26 years. I brought it with me when we moved here(-:
    I can't guess what your tree is. I will have to wait till tomorrow to find out(-:

  17. It sounds like its coming along great. I love all the plant choices you are making. I can just picture those combinations. Hope you have more gardening weather.
    I'm going to have to think about the tree, I can only guess it's a fruit tree of some type.

  18. The patio is coming along nicely and you sure have been busy with this project. Cant wait to see it surrounded by all the blooming pretties. Pics of Christine were great! She wears that uniform proudly! Glad to see she is getting out and exploring beautiful San Antonio. I dont know my trees so no guess on it...

  19. You got a great deal on that Japanese Maple! Bet it will look gorgeous. Great idea to put the soil that you dug up for the patio to good use in a new bed.

  20. With all those plantings, the patio's all set to be an attractive feature of your garden. Looking forward to seeing future patio posts!

  21. I don't know beans about trees and bushes, so haven't a clue. I'm glad to know about not planting a garden around a tree due to the roots taking up the good soil, though. Learn something new every day on blogs!

  22. Thanks for posting!

    I'm really enjoying reading about your patio and the new gardens you are building. I'm working on somewhat similar, somewhat different projects right now and it's taking me forever!!! I'm afraid I'm too far behind for this season. And it's not that I started to late...I just do difficult projects with too much perfectionism! Hopefully in the end it will all be good and the neighbors won't think I'm quite as crazy once they see the finished results!

    山男 (Yamaotoko): 日本人ですか?I used to live in Osaka, so that's why I'm curious. :)

  23. Wow! A lot of work but it looks like it will be worth it in the end. The snow is starting to melt here but it will be awhile before we'll see dirt or patios. Nice to enjoy your spring vicariously.

  24. Thanks all! I am just too darned busy in the garden lately and it seems I get nothing accomplished. Can't believe it is almost April.

    Lindsey, Yes, Mountain Man used to live in Japan. His blog is Reticent Behavior on my blogroll. He now lives in Maine but has fond memories of Japan. Not sure the exact area though. You might ask him. And any time you are done with your projects, do come here and help me with mine-perfection sounds good always. You all take care, I am in and out with the garden, clubs and so on. Busy week this one and next.

    Mountain Man, Do email me the pics too please.

  25. Lindsey,

    私は公正な南4年間東京の住んでいた。 私は錆ついたビットであるが翻訳をどこで捜すか知っている ;P

    I'll email the pics in a bit!

  26. Looks like a great method for building a flower bed Tina. Going up works for me too instead of down into clay (which I do have lots of). Bergenias are great perennials, I remember seeing whole hillsides of them when I used to visit the NW often.

  27. liebe tina, es wird ganz wunderschön, ich liebe solche Plätze ! herzliche Grüße von kathrin

  28. Your patio bed is coming along nicely!
    Happy Spring!
    It is a busy time of year.

  29. I do most of the same stuff you do when making a new garden bed. It's a system that works really well for building up a soils tilth.

    I say Serviceberry too.

  30. I feel so wrong by my juvenile guess. I'm standing by it, regardless if I am wrong!
    Whoo!!!! Avitard!!!------------>

  31. Hi Tina, your patio bed will be wonderful. I have that bergenia and it has not done well at all on the slope. I have moved it to better soil and more sun in the black garden. If it doesn't look better, it's getting the heave ho! My neighbor in southern CA had it her yard, so it can take heat. I can't figure out the problem, so will be watching yours carefully.

  32. Great post Tina.
    I really like your secret patio. It seems so restful. The gardens along side will make for pretty views & smells when they do what they are supposed to.

  33. That secret patio garden is really coming along nicely Tina. I did the same thing with paper when I was first digging & planting out my Arbor Garden. I don't have a clue what the tree is you planted but I noticed several others mentioned a Serviceberry. Look forward to finding out tomorrow. :)

  34. I'm getting tired just reading about all that work you did!

  35. So you have not only got the new patio but also a new area of garden to play around with. What more can a gardener desire than an empty border to fill with plants. I'm sure it will look great when it's finished - and you can lie on the lounger admiring it!