Thursday, July 24, 2014

Garden Logic

I've decided that gardeners have a totally different version of logic than everyone else. Or maybe it's just me. What makes sense to me rarely makes sense to anyone else. My neighborhood once advertised a baby sale. I called the community manager and asked if twins were buy one, get one free. She didn't think it was funny.


After recently spending three days in Portland, Oregon wandering through fabulous gardens, I decided I needed to make a few changes to my own. Would I wait til fall to transplant, prune, and redesign part of my shade garden? Of course not. While that might have made sense to the rest of the world, it made no sense to me. 


I was tired of my boring shady bed and of the big green blob that my garden had become. I wanted to fix it and I wanted to fix it now. It didn't matter that it was raining and that the best time to transplant anything is the spring and fall. As a matter of fact, by doing it all in the rain, I wouldn't have to water. Now that makes perfect sense.

Before the rain started, I should have taken pictures for the perfect Before/After post. But I didn't. I just ran outside, ripped out plants, cut down branches, and grabbed my shovel.


 

Out came the overused kalimeris, the storm damaged salvia, and the hidden white pot filling the spot I couldn't find a shrub for. Hellebore were moved, and variegated columbine put in their place. Years of planning and overanalyzing my dry shade had helped me create a shade garden full of thriving plants but it was boring, as in stuck in an elevator with a taxonomist boring. 

Fix No. 1



This area had previously housed a big white pot because I couldn't find any variegated shrubs that would thrive in dry shade. So I just filled the spot with a pot and called it a day. But after removing several branches, my shady spot became bright enough for a callicarpa 'Duet'. This variegated beauty berry attracts wildlife and can tolerate mild drought. 


 Variegated foliage will keep a shade garden from looking like a plant cave.


I hadn't planned on moving the pot here but I couldn't budge it any further. I added a variegated sweet potato vine and some coleus. I needed color and interest but didn't want anything too bright.


Coleus doesn't actually like dry shade but I don't mind giving it a little extra water. It's a cheap solution while I decide how to brighten this area.

Fix No. 2




Redesigned last fall, I love the shady parts of my garden but need more color, zip, pizzazz. I pulled out some kalimeris, a tough perennial that thrives in dry bright shade and is overused in my garden, and a mystery euphorbia that goes dormant every summer.



A moist, mild summer had left the soil loose and cooperative so I moved some hellebore to make room for purple heuchera, coleus, and 'Leprechaun's Gold' variegated columbine. It will take another year or two for this area to fill in.


I love this!


These coleus were root bound and dried out but thriving - my favorite combination. I like a plant that laughs at adversity.


A homemade iron plant stake that marks the mouth of the soaker hose. 

Fix No. 3



Zinnias, tansy, and black eyed susans (rudbeckia hirta) grow well in hot, bright sun. A cypress vine is climbing the bird house.

Summer in the DC area can be unpredictable and stormy. The last couple of storms brought high winds that kept breaking branches  off my salvia 'Maraschino'. Tired of the carnage I moved the salvia to my sunny bed and replaced it with an ornamental grass, miscanthus 'Little Zebra'.



I redesign this area every spring as I look for plants that will block the curtain and can withstand high winds. I think I might replace the zinnias this fall with another 'Little Zebra'.

Is that a curtain on the outside of the window? Why, yes it is! Made from mildew resistant marine cloth, it absorbs the intense afternoon heat and solves the problem of reflected heat frying my plants. The miscanthus, which was slightly crispy when I bought it, will eventually block most of the view of the curtain. 

70 comments:

  1. The best time to change things is when you are most inspired and I like the way the new columbine and the hostas repeat the same colors. Portland gardens are certainly inspiring and I'm enjoying all the posts from the Fling.

    Your Zebra Grass reminds me of the time I nearly stopped in the middle of the Prince William Parkway when I first spotted it growing in the median. "Must have that plant!" I have even added it to my Texas garden though it doesn't do as well here. If it will grow in the middle of the PW Parkway, it should do very well in your garden.

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    1. I agree! If the soil were hard and brittle, I would have just waited. But we've had a mild summer and everything is doing well. If it can grow in the parkway median, it will help solve my wind tunnel problem in my container garden. I just wish it hadn't taken me so long to figure that out!

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  2. Thanks for making yourself known to me at the Fling. I didn't get to visit with you all that much, but did absorb your humor, which always shows up here, almost by osmosis. Here's hoping you never get "stuck in an elevator with a taxonomist".

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    1. I was slightly worried I'd offend any taxonomists but since I don't label or classify any of my posts, I'm sure they stopped reading me a long time ago. It was wonderful to meet you, too! Maybe future Flings can be longer so we have more time to talk. :o)

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  3. Your changes are brilliant & timed perfectly. I'll be planting some new plants in the next week as well. Things do just fine being transplanted in the middle of the summer as long as they get sufficient water. You make perfect sense to me!

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    1. I think moist soil to begin with and keeping them watered is the key. No problemo!

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  4. I love your changes and if they make you happy, enough said. I operate on similar logic (despite periodic assertions that I'm putting a hold on planting until fall). I spent the day with a friend shopping for plants with temperatures creeping up toward 100F and rain nowhere in sight. Now, in my defense, most of what I bought are drought tolerant succulents but still my husband just shakes his head and smiles a crooked smile. (He knows better than to say anything.)

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    1. I'm so happy with the changes. I would have gone nuts if I'd had to wait til fall. My hubs said absolutely nothing. Wise man! He knows self-preservation when he sees it. :o)

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  5. You are so right that light leaves brighten up the shade. I keep looking for the electric cord that powers the light given off by my variegated dogwood. Good job plunging in-- I say dig when the digging is good -- and the digging is good when you have the time and are excited to do it. You've made some terrific alterations. I love that columbine!

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    1. I love that columbine, too. It's just so cool. It does look like I've added a lamp to that dark spot. But that's exactly what it needed. The beautyberry added the zip it needed.

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  6. I do whatever i think at whatever time most of the time.. did that make sense lol.. but I do.. most of the plants go wacky anyways and I have to change and re plant so i do it whenever.. however I think your garden looks good.. with love Janice

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    1. Thanks! Normally, I wouldn't transplant in the summer but it's been mild so I gave it a try. :o)

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  7. You make perfect sense to me! I love the changes that you've made. I too, feel inspired from the fling and I plan on moving things around tomorrow. It was a delight meeting you and laughing with you.

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    1. I loved meeting you, too! I got just the dose of inspiration I needed to tackle the trouble spots in my garden. :o)

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  8. Those are great changes. I like your soaker hose marker. Great idea.

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    1. I previously used hose guides but they were so short I'd lose them in the foliage. These work much better. :o)

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  9. I love your changes Tammy! Looks like Portland had a good effect. I know that purple heuchera may be a little bit common around here, but I've always thought it really accented all the variegated leaves of the hostas in my shade beds. LOVE the variegated columbine. We had a refreshing three days of real rain to break the spell of all the heat and keep everything looking great. Now, we're headed for the eighties and then nineties by this weekend.

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    1. I'd been avoiding heuchera for exactly that reason when suddenly the cluebird landed and I realized it's common because it's tough as iron. It was exactly what I needed. I love the deep purple color and am adding more to the garden this fall. I've decided to pace myself. :o)

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  10. Looking good, Tammy! I've been adding some new plants lately, too. Our summer has been very cool, so transplants and new plants are doing fine with a little extra water. Those Coleus and the Variegated Columbine are lovely.

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    1. Thanks! I like the coleus so much I'm going to take cuttings. :o) Our summer has been mild, with few exceptions. Love it!

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  11. You have done a lot of work. How do you keep up with it all? I am finally beginning to enjoy a bit a shade garden, but it still needs more work. I love the orange zinnias. They really do add a lot of zip.

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    1. I'm an energetic person. :o) Popping in the little plants was easy stuff. Digging the hole was a bit more effort but not too bad. The reward is worth the effort. :o)

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  12. Love the garden! The coleus looks so gorgeous.

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  13. Hi Tammy, sound and looks (!) like you brought back a lot of energy from the Blogger Fling! Kudos to you for making all these changes in your garden. I especially love your white container with the incredible coleus and variegated potato vine combo. I adore your bright and dark green leaved hostas, too. How do keep the snails out of them? Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. Thanks! I rarely see snails here. I do have slugs that I use beer traps for but I think the toads and skinks keep the slugs under control more than I do. :o)

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  14. You are a woman after my own heart Tammy, when I decide to do something it has to be NOW! I've just shifted around the terrace beds in front of the house. Moved moisture loving astilbes, in July. Hey Ho.
    I love that Callicarpa, it really adds zing to that shady patch.

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    1. I alternate between wanting to do it NOW and needing to think about it for a while. But the idea of having to look at the Big Green Blob for the rest of the summer was unbearable so out came the shovel. :o)

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  15. I give you credit for continually working on this area until you get it like you want it. Seems we all always have a problem area that we can't get just right. I also do things when I see them regardless of the time of the year.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. I'm as tenacious as a rat terrier. I drive myself crazy, actually but feel so satisfied when a problem has been solved.

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  16. I didn't know there was such a thing as a variegated beautyberry--love it! I like all the changes you've made. I don't think gardeners are ever quite satisfied with how their gardens look--there is always some tweaking to be done. That's a good thing, or gardening could get boring!

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    1. I didn't know it existed until I saw it at the nursery. I thought its write up was the product of a sadistic horticulturalist who just wanted to toy with me but the always-right Internet confirmed that it does indeed thrive in well drained shady spots. Variegated + dry shade + attracts wildlife = in the garden asap!

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  17. Brava, lady. We got more rain this week (so weird!) so I'm plotting some retooling myself. I am intrigued by this variegated beauty berry. Everything looks gorgeous!

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    1. Thanks! The beautyberry is my newest garden crush along with the columbine and all those coleus. I'm a bit of garden bigamist. I love them all!

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  18. I'm having a similar problem, I have plenty of plants that are doing well but they are green and boring! Time to shake things up a bit with more contrast of color and texture! But for a variety of reasons (heat, humidity, bugs, rock-hard soil) I do little gardening in the summer so it will have to wait a bit!

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    1. Do you ever read The British Gardener? His fatsia japonica made it through our winter! I was so tempted to add one but my shade is too dry. We've had quite a bit of rain but sometimes the city doesn't get the same weather we do. I think all the hot air coming out of Capitol Hill must blow away the rain. ;o)

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    2. Alas, the British Gardener has relocated to an island in the Caribbean (literally!). But fatsias have been surprisingly hardy in our area; I know several gardeners who are growing them and while many suffered damage from this winter (including my own), few seem to have died outright. They are VERY drought-tolerant once established, and a good choice for dry shade as long as you give them some TLC while they're getting established!

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  19. What wonderful changes you have made, clearly you are all fired up and rearing to go....atta girrrrl!!! Now if you find time to come and sort my green blob of a garden out I be most appreciative....I find it so frustrating, no matter what you buy or grow that is supposed to bloom at certain times, they don't and one is stuck with the green blob.
    I love the colour contrasts you have going on now....and your pin-ups of course....lol xxx

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    1. I can't resist a sassy pinup! I do get very fired up about various things and want my garden to eventually match the garden visions I have in my head. Of course, it 's possible I just need more sleep and less wine, too, since my visions usually include handsome, rugged men wearing nothing but a watering can. ;o) A gal can dream!

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  20. Tammy girl I am still chortling over the drag queen comments ... too funny !
    Hey we share the same Leprechaun Gold columbine ! cool ! .... and ? I just did a plant switch about marathon this morning/afternoon ... I don't wait for the "right" time either ... when I think I better get something done before I snore through it the whole season and then shriek "OH S**T ... I should have , etc... etc ...
    You did a great job and I too have never heard of a variegated beauty berry .. I have Dream Catcher ... but a variegated one would be perfect ! ... now you have me fixated on something I bet I can NOT find here ... there is barely anything left any where .... BIG sigh !
    The outside curtain thing is genius !... try not to let that go to your head though ? haha
    Joy

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    1. The outside curtain is unexpected, for sure, but oh so effective. My plants were being hit by death rays every afternoon and looked like hot poop. It also helps keep my kitchen cool. I've had lots of Oh Sh*t! moments, too, so if I don't do something as soon as I think about it sometimes it doesn't happen. I have days my brain is so damn swiss cheesy I'm lucky not to have my bra on my butt and underwear on my head.

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  21. Some people sure don't have a sense of humour, weaned on a pickle I say! Your garden looks great and your new plants are so interesting. Dry shade is tough! Good for you for going for it, sometimes I over think things and I lose my momentum or it doesn't get done. Always a pleasure to read your blog!

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    1. 'Weaned on a pickle' is the best!! I'm stealing that one! Dry shade is a beast but I've learned to work with it. Soaker hoses are a lifesaver, especially when you forget to turn them off and they run all night. Oops!

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  22. I relish your impatience...lol. Why wait til fall or worse....NEXT spring. They're ages away....sheesh!!
    Rules are there to be broken for heavens sake. Keep being the rebel we love!! ;-)

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    1. Next spring is a million years away. NOW is so much better. :o) Garden rules are the byproduct of a boring, unimaginative mind. Long live creativity! :o)

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  23. Isn't that just the way. We spend so much time trying to find plants that will thrive in garden only to then realize that perhaps those plants don't look all that great together. I think that's why gardening is such an ongoing challenge to me (that I kinda love). You have to think about so many factors from weather, to ground conditions, plant needs and then add in trying to make it look good. You've done an excellent job with your fixes. I adore coleus and use it a lot for shade containers. Every colour of the rainbow and so easy to grow.

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    1. Thanks! When it comes to dry shade, I'm just happy when everything lives. But now that I've figured that part out, it was time to add some zing. But it takes so long to learn all this! I'm going to line my window sill with coleus cuttings this winter. Free plants for next year! :o)

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  24. As for not doing things at the right time, you are in good company. Christopher Lloyd used to say that the best time to move a plant or a cutting you were being offered was right then and there. If you waited for the right time, they would obviously forget all about it and you would not get it.

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    1. What a wise man! I do keep notes so I can make big changes this fall. But it felt so good to just run out there and fix what needed to be fixed. I was tired of just living with it. I'd done that long enough. I needed the color and contrast asap!

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  25. When something suddenly comes together in your head you just have to strike when the inspiration is fresh, don't you. I'm the same, but at least you had rain, I've killed a plant by moving it a few days ago despite manic watering. Ah well, at least I grew it from seed and proved that it was the right plant for that spot! Your enthusiasm is infectious, and that variegated callicarpa really shines out, and I love your massed hostas, the heucheras and variegated aquilegias are perfect foils.

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    1. If the soil had been dry or the plants stressed to begin with, I'd have waited even if it nearly killed me. But the soil was moist and it was easy to dig deeply so I didn't disturb the root ball that much. All the plants I moved or added are doing very well, which is so satisfying. Is callicarpa available in the UK?

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  26. I think you could come over and help me out - I have a bed that I have never been happy with - I am always changing it at the most inappropriate times - one day I hope to crack it .

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    1. If only you were closer, I'd be over in a hot minute! Last fall I redesigned almost my entire shade garden because it was such a wreck. It was a lot of work but I'm happy with the results, especially now that I've added some color. I'll be tweaking it a bit more this fall. August is usually hot and dry here so I'm forcing myself to wait.

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  27. Great job re-doing your garden area -- your can-do spirit is inspiring! The new plants look much brighter in color, and I'm sure the area will improve even more each year as the plants fill in. Doesn't it feel good to have accomplished one of your garden goals, especially at a time when the rest of us have given up and are taking the traditional high summer break? I look forward to seeing more of this area in future. Thanks for sharing your garden makeover! -Beth

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    1. I'm pretty tenacious when it comes to trying to fix my garden problems. :o) Ignoring them drives me nuts. I'd rather puzzle out the problem until I'm satisfied.

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  28. If you like little zebra, you might like "goldbar" also. Its a little smaller.

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    1. MoBot (Missouri Botanical) says Gold Bar is taller than Little Zebra. Is there another one that is smaller than Little Zebra? I have several wind tunnels that are created on stormy days and my container garden is right in the way. I think adding grasses will be the problem solver. I'm hoping they'll also act as buffers to protect the smaller plants in front.

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  29. Our next garden in False Bay has the green glooms. I'll encourage variegated Coprosma - brings the garden to life.

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    1. I've had so many plants die in my dry shade that I was thrilled just to have something alive in those spots. But the green gloom is the perfect description for that bed. It was very blah. Now that I've figured out how to keep everything alive, it was time to spice it up a bit. :o)

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  30. I had no idea that logic was involved in being a gardener.....I like defying logic in my garden and loads of other areas in my life.
    Carry on smartly Tammy.

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    1. I think there are as many types of logic as there are people on the planet. :o) We should all just do what works for us.

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  31. Hi Tammy, we definitely share the same sense of humour because when I read about the "baby sale" the first thing I thought of was "hmm, I wonder if you have to buy them in whole". Well done on powering through those fixes, I hope they work out well.

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    1. I also asked the community manager if babies that cry a lot were discounted and she didn't like that, either. They quickly changed the wording in the community newsletter/website to read, "yard sale with baby items" instead of "baby sale", which I thought was quite boring. I think the fixes are keepers. Yay! It's about damn time!

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  32. Oh Tammy, the first two images crack me up and, if I may say, perfectly describe you! Love it. I have a dish towel with one of those lovely 40s gals that says, "My garden kicks ass." I hope you have one too. Way to go re-designing your garden on the fly, post-Portlandia. I too came home and pruned, ripped out plants I've changed my mind about, and wondered, what will the neighbors think...? Who cares! We do!

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  33. I ripped out more plants today and added a few more variegated lovelies. So fun! I took some plants that were languishing in partial shade and surprised them by plopping them into full sun. They were like, "Damn, lady, what took so long?" ;o)

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  34. Tammy, you are someone after my own heart who is prepared to throw away the rule book and change things around in the summer :-) I hope the new areas work out well for you, I'm pretty jealous of all your gorgeous looking, uneaten hostas. Where do you hide all your slugs and snails, lol.

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  35. Usually I follow the rules and don't move plants in mid-summer, but this year the rules seem to have gone out the window for me as well. The plants haven't exactly thanked me, but they have pulled through the trauma. Sometimes it's nice just to get things taken care of without the wait for fall.

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  36. And then there's internet logic. I just wrote a comment on this wonderful post and when I pressed publish, I was told "You do not own that identity", which is a scary thought. Who does own my identity? In any case, I hope my comment does not disappear down the intertubes.

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  37. I have a bed which looks glorious in Spring but is really boring now. I am itching to rip it all out and replant it. The trouble is it will probably look awful in Spring then. The greatest challenge for a gardener is creating something that looks good all year round. You are right though, some nice bright foliage is probably all it needs. I have never heard of variegated Callicarpa. I am going to look and see if it is available here. And variegated Sweet Potato? That sounds interesting. Is it edible?

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  38. Wow that is initiative...and what a great look....I have so many beds to redesign I am just not up to the task yet...maybe finding one spot to start would help!

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