Monday, June 16, 2014

My New Island Beds

This is something like what I hope my new garden beds resemble:
Breathtaking magnolias and evergreen trees at Hillier Gardens
at Jermyn House in Hampshire, England.

In my posts, here and here from back in April, I related my plans for making some new island beds in my west and north yards (and I wrote another post about the interesting history of island beds too). I believe that I have nearly finished laying out my new beds, planting them with the trees and shrubs that I will plant this year, and edging and mulching them.

They're still not too much to look at, as they're basically just large areas of mulch dotted with tiny green blobs, but perhaps you can use your imagination to see what they might look like in five to ten years (plus I've included a few photos of gardens that inspired me, to help you see what I hope it will look like in future):

First, here is a map of the two island beds, plus the new border against the north side of the house (more about that border in a later post). Island Bed #1 or what I now call the West Island is a crescent-shaped bed about 75 feet in length, and Island Bed #2 (now the North Island) is an elongated kidney-shaped bed about 55 feet long.

The West Island, as seen from the south end.

In the West Island, I have planted, starting roughly from the south end, where the above photo was taken from:

  • 'Soft Serve' false cypress (the tree at forefront in the photo) This is the 2nd one I've planted here, as the 1st died almost immediately after I planted it, and this one also look pretty sickly -- I think Earl May just has some bad stock. I may have to re-think this choice. It occupies a very prominent spot on the front corner of the bed, and I need something that won't always be dying...
  • Magnolia 'Ann'
  • 'Mary Rose' David Austin rose (transplanted from my 'William and Mary Bed' which is being entirely re-done
  • Japanese Maple 'Bloodgood'
  • Sarah Bernhardt peony (transplanted from another part of my gardens)
  • Flowering cherry 'Kwanzan'
  • Boxwood 'Green Velvet' (transplanted from my nursery beds)
  • Magnolia 'Betty'
  • 'Robusta Green' juniper
  • 'Nearly Wild' rose
  • Yoshino flowering cherry
  • Eastern redbud "Hearts of Gold'
  • Apricot (fruiting) 'Moorpark' dwarf
  • Black Hills spruce
  • 'Mary Rose'
  • Magnolia 'Butterflies'
  • Flowering cherry 'Kwanzan'
  • Boxwood 'Green Velvet' (transplanted from my nursery beds)
  • 'Mary Rose'
  • 'Nearly Wild' rose
  • Deutzia 'Nikko' (After planting the very small plant, I forgot it was there when I mulched the area -- I should have flagged it -- and I buried it in a thick layer of mulch for several weeks, so it now appears dead. I have pulled back the mulch and watered it, and hope it will spring back to life somehow....)
  • 'Emerald Green' arborvitae, on the other corner on the north end of the West Island

The North Island. Lots of tiny green dots on a mulch field, I know.... I hope the trees and shrubs will grow up to hide the play equipment before too many years.

In the smaller North Island Bed, I have planted, from west to east (left to right in the above photo):

  • 'Green Velvet' Boxwood (pyramidal shaped)
  • Flowering cherry 'Kwanzan'
  • "Nearly Wild' rose
  • Magnolia 'White Rose'
  • 'Green Velvet' Boxwood (transplanted from my nursery beds)
  • Magnolia 'Royal Star'
  • Japanese maple 'Red Select'
  • Pink flowering dogwood
  • Unnamed purple rhododendron
  • 'Pleasant White' azalea
  • 'Girard Rose' azaleas (2, transplanted from the east side of the tractor shed -- I was pretty certain these were dead because they didn't leaf out until early June, but they now look pretty good - yay!)
  • I have also ordered Winterberries 'Berry Nice' and male 'Jim Dandy' along with evergreen holly shrubs 'Castle Spire' and male "Castle Wall' (I have been wanting these for Christmas flower arrangements for several years now). I'll plant these where there is still room in either island bed, probably mostly in the North Island.

Next year, I will plant more shrubs, especially tree peonies and perhaps some more rhododendrons and azaleas. (The tree peonies are so expensive that I thought I should wait until next year, so as not to give my husband a heart attack.) But I have most of the major trees and evergreen shrubs in place, and if I can keep them from dying over the summer or during the winter, they should have a good start.

In five to ten years, I hope they will look less like tiny green blobs in mulch and more like the gorgeous, tree-filled gardens that have inspired me to make these beds, a few of which are shown below:

Bressingham Gardens, Alan and Adrian Bloom's lovely gardens
in Norfolk, England. (Flickr, taken by Nick, Puritani35)

The Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, Canada.
(Flickr, taken by Jeffrey Beall)

I probably won't plant this many bulbs in my new areas, but the
combination of bulbs and flowering trees is a beautiful one that I will
try to capture some of. (

And last but certainly not least, Larry Conrad's magnificent gardens in Wisconsin have demonstrated to me the beauty of trees and shrubs (particularly conifers) in island beds -- and Larry has generously offered me advice concerning the layout and installation of my beds, as well as plant suggestions. Many thanks again to him.

Thanks for reading! -Beth


  1. Hi Beth, What an amazing amount of work you have put into planning and planting your new island beds - and indeed all of your gardens. You must spend many, many hours out working and it shows! Beautiful! Good luck. Hugs, Beth

    1. Thanks for your very kind comments, Beth!

  2. It's a shame that your cypress tree died and the second is looking sickly.
    We planted out a Nordman fir after Christmas and it's not thriving. We've planted it somewhere else and replaced if with a large rosemary bush which I know will do well. You have a lovely mature ash tree. We must cherish them as many are being lost to disease. All the best with your plans for the island beds.

  3. Thanks for reading, Linda, and for your kind wishes. And I hope your fir tree recovers and thrives in its new location. I love rosemary, but I can only grow it in a pot here in Iowa, because it's not hardy enough to survive our winters. Thanks!