Knowing it was more than my non-gardening husband and I could handle, we hired a local landscaper to bring in two loads of mushroom dirt, purchase and plant the shrubs, and spread two loads of mulch. The shrubs on the lower level are nineteen miniature boxwood, which over the next few years should expand and form a three-foot high hedge the length of the wall.
The middle level, which I now call the Terrace Garden, is divided into three sections. The center and longest section has as its foundation fifteen shrubs, arranged in groups of three. At each end, two dwarf Alberta spruces and one Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ both frame and define the space. The other three groups contain one spruce each, along with either two pink spireas or two more ‘Mountain Fires.’
I chose the dwarf Alberta spruce for its evergreen quality, its deer resistance, and its eventual height of six to eight feet. It is supposed to be a slow grower, so it will be many years before it reaches that! Additionally, I find its neat and tidy conical shape appealing.
I was not familiar with Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ until the landscaper suggested it. It is also known as Lily of the Valley bush because of the white flowers it sports in the spring. ‘Mountain Fire’ is an evergreen, is deer resistant, and will slowly grow into a 3′ x 4′ mound to contrast nicely with the more stately, upright spruce. Its leaves emerge flaming red (hence its name!) and eventually change to glossy green.
The third shrub I chose is pink spiraea, and really, I chose it just because I like it! However, it is also deer resistant and contrasts nicely with the spruce. Unlike the spruce and ‘Mountain Fire’, spiraea is not evergreen and will lose its leaves for the winter. Its tiny pale pink flowers add some color and interest in the late spring and early summer. Aren’t they sweet?Of course all three of these shrubs are hardy for my zone 5 garden. They all appreciate the full sun that hill receives all day. As already mentioned, they are all deer resistant. I’ve seen deer tracks in the bed and damage to some other plants there, but each of these shrubs has been ignored. The soil there is bad–hard, rocky, and dry–so the landscaper amended it with two truckloads of rich mushroom dirt. After planting, he spread a two-inch layer of triple shredded, natural (not pallet) mulch. This season the mulch will keep moisture in the soil, help keep weeds down, and beautify the bed. Over time it will break down and compost itself to enrich the soil.
Because I love bright color in my gardens, I have planted some tall perennial flowers along the wall in between the groups of shrubs. There are two False Sunflowers, Heliopsis ‘Summer Sun.’ Once established, this plant will attain a height of three to four feet and form a clump bearing large numbers of cheery yellow daisy-like flowers from mid-summer through fall. I’ve been warned that it is an enthusiastic re-seeder, so I anticipate many baby sunflowers in the future. Heliopsis is listed as deer resistant, but someone came along and nibbled one of my plants! It was probably just an experimental taste test; I’ve seen no evidence that the critter came back for seconds, and the plant is recovering well:
Gaura lindheimeri graces another spot along the wall, with long, wispy stems and delicate pink, butterfly like flowers. It has a sprawling, open habit. It may not be the right plant for this space once the shrubs mature and fill in more. Time will tell whether I like it here or will want to move it. The deer have not bothered it.Near the top end of this section, I’ve installed a Clematis ‘Jackmanii’. I planted it behind one of the spruces, rather than in the center of the space, so its roots will be shaded and stay cooler than if they were in the full sun all day. I will put in a trellis and train the vines over to the right. ‘Jackmanii’ does very well in our area, and I’m looking forward to seeing this section of wall covered with its deep purple blooms in summers to come. Also deer resistant.
I love its green-gray lacy foliage and its mid to late-summer lavender-blue blossoms. I think I am not over-crowding the shrubs by planting these here. The shrubbery is all slow-growing, and there is a lot of open space between and in front of the groups, so I think it will be fine, at least for the first few years!