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Tips for creating a corner garden

by Timber Press on January 27, 2017

in Design, Gardening

Most early spring perennials aren’t as big as summer bloomers, but they are every bit as welcome. Go for yellows for farthest visibility, and bolster the garden with tulips and other bulbs. All photographs by Matthew Bartmann.

New to gardening or starting fresh with a new space? Spend fewer hours and a minimal amount of money by tackling one small area of your yard at a time. Sally Roth shares her quick tips and tricks for beginning to beautify those problematic corners.


PUNCH IT UP
Look for drama queen plants to jazz up your corner gardens—accents of loud color or arresting shape. For a quick fix to boring corners, pop in a pot of ‘Wave’ petunias, or a commanding clump of strappy, white-striped ‘Cosmopolitan’ miscanthus grass, or a spiky New Zealand flax or yucca. Presto!

A corner garden of cactus, yuccas, and other desert plants in gravel suits this gardener’s personal style, even with lush green lawn and trees.

BE KIND TO YOUR BUDGET

A triangular corner garden with legs about 6 feet long covers about 18 square feet. Lengthen those legs to 8 feet, and you’ll be covering about 32 square feet. Ten feet on each side of the L? Now we’re talking about 50 square feet. Curving the inside boundary will shave off a few square feet of planting, but this garden will be larger than the one at the lamppost, and that means more plants. Invest most of your budget in a small tree or a few shrubs, if that’s the look you like. Fill in with perennials of spreading habit to cover space cheaply and beautifully.

Depending on your plant choices, you can plant an 8-by-8-foot triangular corner for as little as $30, especially if you can take divisions of perennials or grasses from other beds. Buy the smallest pots you can find—4-inch perennials instead of gallon pots, young shrubs and trees instead of stately specimens. You’ll save big money, and the plants will soon catch up to those pricier large plants.

Another trick: plant a small tree or a few shrubs, add a few rocks, and a single clump of flowers in one of your signature colors, and mulch the entire area. The bed will look satisfyingly solid, and then you can take your time filling it in with more plants.

An outlined corner, anchored with a hefty rock and lilac and brightened with gold alyssum, proudly marks the end of this yard.

DON’T PLANT A PROBLEM

Avoid notoriously aggressive plants that could infiltrate your lawn or your neighbors’ yards. Steer clear of bamboo, goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria), and Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosum), the three most aggressive and impossible-to-remove offenders.

Say no to plume poppy (Macleaya cordata) and cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum), too, which are also infamously pushy in many areas. All have deep, running roots that can travel a mile a minute, or so it seems. Use a bed edging along the neighbors’ side for a neat, tidy line and to keep overenthusiastic plants from trespassing into their lawn.

MISTAKES NOT TO MAKE

Beds of other shapes, such as squares or circles, can mark the corners, too, but they don’t create a sense of enclosure. Instead of inviting the eye into the yard, they’ll halt it right there. If you already have an existing square or circular bed at the corner, now’s the time to turn it into a cozy-feeling L.

Lengthen the legs to fashion an inviting, enclosing corner, and for strongest effect, curve the inside inward. If you change a convex curve on the inside to a concave line, you won’t even have to buy any plants—those you remove when you’re changing the shape will fill the new legs.

 

Sally Roth is an award-winning author of more than 20 popular books about gardening, nature, and birds, including the best-selling Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible, and a contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. She and her husband, Matt Bartmann, share their home in the high Rockies with two dogs, one cat, a family of pine squirrels, a hard-working packrat, a spotted skunk who lives beneath the house, a well-fed bunch of birds at the feeder, and a stable of old Volvos. You can visit her website at sallyroth.com.

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