Monday, July 5, 2010

The Colorado Bed

My Australian Gardening Calendar labels July as "a month for garden design", and we've been doing just that.

Last December our huge apple tree fell down, converting a shady garden bed into a sunbaked crust over summer and leaving us with a blank canvas (well, potentially blank), thus:
The prime consideration in our design plan has been that the bed sits on the North side of our deck, so we want something that is both aesthetic and, like the apple tree, tall and deciduous (the usual shade-in-summer, sun-in-winter factor). I am happy to be corrected, but our requirement for tallness rules out most edible plants in a functional form- the apple tree's out-of-reach fruit was just a possum magnet. B and I quickly decided that this could be the spot for our long awaited "aspens".

As I have shown, aspen trees (Populus tremuloides) are for us a pure Colorado icon, as much as the columbine. White trunks, green leaves in summer, red or yellow in autumn, and bare white trunks in the snow.

The only problem with P. tremuloides aspens is that they don't grow at elevations below 1500 feet: they have no chance in Melbourne! There are other aspen varieties, but I suspect they're not really suitable for the small spot we have and besides, they're not "our" aspens.

So on to Plan B, silver birches (Betula pendula). There are heaps in our area, and with white trunks they are quite aspen-ish to our mind. When we were looking for a house to buy a few years back, one came up with a clump of silver birches, and we decided our future garden would have silver birches. In fact, they became a joke between B and I: until the apple tree's demise we would have had to clear some other garden bed for our silver birches but couldn't decide where. When I'd consult B about other garden design issues, his reply has been "I don't mind-I just want my silver birches". So it's quite exciting to finally have them in the works!

The apple tree's demise has sparked quite a domino effect in the rest of the garden. In the first place the soil in the bed is horrid, so we'll be digging in loads of manure and compost. I've already transplanted the long-suffering rhubarb to its third home, and to make room for the birches we have moved the Mexican orange blossom and the port wine magnolia to one side of the bed and the daisy to the lawn border. The two camelias were sent to our South side yard, which will now be an official acid-lovers bed (despite its own problems).

The plan is then to plant silver birches across the bed, so that their trunks will be a feature to look at. The fence will be covered in a creeper (probably Jasmine as we love the scent), and if I can ever get my cuttings to take root, we'll have a Rosemary hedge, which will tie in with the bed on the south side of the deck. I'm also in the process of ordering blue columbine seeds fron an American company, so the plan is to have wildflowers around our "aspens".

This is one of my biggest garden design job ever, so I'm dying to see the finished product!!

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