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The sale plot


The idea

Ideas are wonderful. They sound great inside your head - just think of the possibilities! So too, this garden area was born out of a stray idea, hatched on the evening after the 2008 plant sale. I was looking at the largish array of plants that had not sold, and wondering what I'd do with them. In previous years, some of these had found their way into our regular gardens; others had been donated to the HPS/MAG spring plant sale or other worthy cause. And those I figured I'd try to sell again next year mostly got stashed back into our orchard nursery area. The main purpose of this area is to accept and nurse along seedlings from the current year's seed-starting efforts. Inevitably, every year the influx of older, larger plants would turn the orchard area into a messy, incoherent collection of diversely sized and inappropriately placed plants.

As I wasn't looking forward to another installment of this mess, and a cub scout event was taking priority over the HPS/MAG sale this year, the time was ripe for a moment of inspiration - and --poof!-- there it came: a whole new garden area, specifically created to hold all these plants for a single year. Plant them right after the sale, allow them to grow and prosper for a year, joined by other divisions and volunteers I find throughout the season - and dig them up next April, to start over again from scratch after next year's sale.

This would not be just a messy ensemble of plants - nor an overly regimented utilitarian zone with plants in nice rows. No, the idea was to make a bed that would be an asset to the garden as a whole through summer and fall, its true intent becoming obvious only in early spring.

The setting

I had just the right area for the purpose: a strip of lawn at the end of the driveway, which had become somewhat isolated from the back yard by our addition of a split-rail fence (required for pond safety) last year. Ideal for the purpose: with the Washington hawthorn at the end of the driveway and a corkscrew willow nearby, it gets a nice range of light conditions from mostly shady to mostly sunny; and it's close to the water hose, an advantage that cannot be underestimated in the inevitable spell of hot dry weather that every summer brings. Ah, a perfect opportunity awaited!

As I said, that was the idea. The implementation and outcome, as with any idea, could be conveniently delayed to a later date.

Back-breaking labor

But not too much later - remember, those plants were all waiting in their pots, and wouldn't remain happy much longer. So already the next day, I set to work. Luckily, it had rained a few days before the sale, and the soil was still suitably damp. With the help of my father, who was visiting from the Netherlands, it didn't take long to strip the sod off the plot, perhaps ten by fifteen feet in size. The next phase was harder work: digging the soil deep enough to bury the accumulated sod, and mix plenty of organic matter into the heavy clay soil. I got a small part of the way done that Sunday, and tended to other gardening duties during the few days of warm dry weather that followed.

Bad move! It doesn't take long for the Pennsylvania dirt (red clay liberally laced with rocks of all sizes) to take on its pre-brick consistency, especially when it's been stripped of its moisture-retentive sod. By the end of the week, digging was nearly impossible. You can imagine my glee when Friday brought drenching rain, a few inches worth, and rehydrated my project. Knowing I had a limited window of opportunity, I wasted no time the following weekend, and completed the project by late Saturday afternoon. By that time, I had buried all the original sod, and additionally mixed a small pickup load of compost (generously supplied by our township) into the soil. The only component that got removed from the mix was rocks (a sizeable pile accumulated during the project). As a result, the bed is a bulge right now, its additional volume raising it above the level of the adjacent lawn. It will inevitably settle, but hopefully never return to its nearly unworkable initial condition.

In go the plants

The next step was more fun (my kids thought so, too): giving all those potted plants a home in the newly dug plot. I'm not much of a garden designer, but at least I tried to make sure that plants with different light requirements and size gradations were properly arranged across the plot - only time will tell if it results in an aethetically pleasing entity. The plot is planted more densely than I would a regular garden bed, so I won't be surprised if it turns into a bit of a tangle by late summer. As long as it's a colorful tangle, that's OK by me.

They don't stay cute for long...

By late July, many of the plants have grown tall and full. I'm fairly pleased - it's lush, but not too bad of a tangle, and all in all looks pretty good. The next test comes in spring - how will the digging and potting up of all these plants work out?

The plants below are growing in our sale plot this year

Acanthus mollis (bear's breeches)
Aconitum carmichaelii (monkshood)
Allium aflatunense (Persian onion)
Allium cernuum (nodding onion)
Allium senescens (broadleaf chives)
Allium stellatum (prairie onion)
Allium strictum (stiff onion)
Amsonia 'Blue Ice' (blue star)
Amsonia hubrichtii (narrow-leaf blue star)
Amsonia illustris (Ozark blue star; shining blue star)
Anemone hupehensis (Japanese windflower)
Anemone tomentosa 'Robustissima' (grape-leaf anemone)
Anemone x hybrida 'Andrea Atkinson' and 'Honorine Jobert' (Japanese windflower (white forms))
Aquilegia kareliniana (Afghan columbine)
Aquilegia pyrenaica (Pyrenees columbine)
Aquilegia vulgaris (columbine)
Arisaema ringens (Japanese cobra lily)
Armoracia rusticana 'Variegata' (variegated horseradish)
Aruncus aethusifolius (dwarf goat's beard)
Asarum canadense (Canadian wild ginger)
Asparagus schoberioides
Barnardia japonica (squill)
Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' and 'Variegata' (false forget-me-not)
Buxus sinica var. insularis (Korean boxwood)
Campanula latifolia subsp. latifolia (bellflower)
Carex muskingumensis 'Wachtposten' (palm sedge)
Carex testacea (sedge)
Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley)
Crataegus phaenopyrum (Washington hawthorn)
Dianthus x roysii
Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower)
Epilobium angustifolium (willow orchid)
Eragrostis curvula (weeping lovegrass)
Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon' (chameleon spurge)
Euphorbia polychroma (cushion spurge)
Filipendula rubra (queen of the prairie, meadowsweet)
Galium odoratum (sweet woodruff)
Geranium macrorrhizum (bigroot cranesbill)
Geranium psilostemon (cranesbill)
Globularia repens (matted globe daisy)
Helenium autumnale (Helen's flower, sneezeweed)
Heliopsis helianthoides (false sunflower)
Helleborus x hybridus (lenten rose)
Hemerocallis 'Frans Hals' (daylily)
Hemerocallis middendorffii (Amur daylily)
Heuchera villosa 'Autumn Bride' (hairy alum root)
Hosta 'Undulata Mediovariegata' (plantain lily)
Hosta hybrids (plantain lily)
Iris (intermediate bearded hybrids) (intermediate bearded iris)
Iris (tall bearded hybrids) (bearded iris)
Iris domestica (blackberry lily)
Iris sibirica (Siberian iris)
Kalimeris incisa (cutleaf Japanese aster)
Levisticum officinale (lovage)
Lilium (lilies (various species and hybrids))
Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower)
Lobelia sessilifolia
Lobelia siphilitica (great blue lobelia)
Luzula nivea (snowy wood rush)
Nepeta grandiflora 'Dawn to Dusk' (catmint)
Paeonia (garden peony)
Papaver orientale (oriental poppy)
Penstemon hirsutus (hairy penstemon)
Penstemon smallii (Small's penstemon)
Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage)
Persicaria polymorpha (giant fleeceflower; white dragon)
Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox)
Pinellia tripartita (green dragon)
Polygonatum biflorum (Solomon's seal)
Polygonatum humile (dwarf Solomon's seal)
Pontederia cordata (pickerel rush; pickerelweed)
Potentilla megalantha (strawberry cinquefoil)
Rodgersia aesculifolia
Rosa x rehderiana (polyantha rose)
Salvia dumetorum (Siberian sage)
Saponaria pamphylica
Saxifraga stolonifera (strawberry begonia)
Sedum 'Autumn Joy' (showy stonecrop)
Sedum 'Stardust' (showy stonecrop)
Sedum kamtschaticum (Kamtschat sedum)
Stachys densiflora 'Hummelo' (alpine betony)
Syneilesis aconitifolia (shredded umbrella plant)
Telekia speciosa (ox-eye daisy)
Thalictrum flavum ssp. glaucum (yellow meadow rue; dusty meadow rue)
Tommasinia verticillaris (hog's fennel; milk parsley)
Tradescantia virginiana (spiderwort)
Tricyrtis macropoda (pagoda toad lily)
Vernonia lettermannii (ironweed)

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Last modified: August 01, 2008
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