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I am redoing the narrow planting areas (2-3' wide) on either side of our 20' long entry. Garages from next door townhouses butt up against the outer edge on each side, causing morning sun and afternoon shade on one side, and vice versa on the other side. I have picked out some euphorbias, heucheras, and carexes which should do well. I'm wondering if I should have some taller, more dramatic plants to offset these and if you have any suggestions of ones which might work. Also, any bulb ideas would be appreciated.
Have you considered putting up trellises on one or both sides? Then you could grow vines which require little width, but still have the advantage of height. You could also grow taller plants (maybe some grasses like Miscanthus or even a well-restricted--using root barrier--Bamboo) in containers, and keep them shaped to suit the narrow space. Some shrubs and trees are naturally narrow or fastigiate in growth habit.
Here is a list of narrow plants compiled by local garden designer Chris Pfeiffer,c2005. Some will be too wide for your planting area, but you might want to research those that fit the site.
American arborvitae 'Rheingold' (Thuja occidentalis 'Rheingold') 5'h x 3' w
Barberry 'Helmond Pillar' (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Helmond Pillar') 6'h x 2'w
Boxwood 'Graham Blandy' (Buxus sempervirens 'Graham Blandy') 8'h x 1-1/2'w
English yew 'Standishii' (Taxus baccata 'Standishii') 4'h x 1-1/2'w
Irish yew (Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata') 20'h x 4'w
Japanese holly Jersey pinnacle (Ilex crenata 'Jersey Pinnacle') 6'h x 4'w
Japanese holly Mariesii (Ilex crenata 'Mariesii) 3'h x 1-1/2'w
Dwarf yeddo rhaphiolepis (Rhaphiolepis umbellata 'Gulf Green') 3-4'h x 2'w
Heavenly bamboo 'Gulf Stream' (Nandina domestica 'Gulf Stream') 4'h x 2'w
Japanese euonymus 'Green Spire' (Euonymus japonicus 'Green Spire') 15'h x 6'w
There are also a good number of tall perennials you might try, such as (for your afternoon sunny side) Helenium, Verbascum, Baptisia, Eupatorium, and bulbous plants like Allium and Eremurus, and for your shadier morning sun side, Macleaya, Digitalis, Filipendula ulmaria, Anemone hybrida, Actaea (formerly called Cimicifuga), Lilium martagon, Thalictrum, and Veronicastrum.
There are many excellent gardening books you could consult for ideas. Since you have a small, narrow space, I highly recommend local garden writer Marty Wingate's book, Big Ideas for Northwest Small Gardens (Sasquatch Books, 2003). You are welcome to visit the Miller Library, where you can do further research and also borrow books.
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Many of the daisy-like flowers such as Rudbeckia, Helenium, Symphyotrichum, and Chrysanthemum will form a mass of flowers that will eventually topple over the edge of the beds. While a cascade of color can be attractive spilling over the edge, it looks very unsightly when you expose the brown bare centers of the plants. It is best to stake these plants as a group or clump. Tall perennials with large flowers like Lilium, Delphinium, Crocosmia, and Dahlia will benefit from individual stakes.
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October 20 2016 11:00:58