Saturday, October 3, 2009

Spiffin' up the school

My neighbor and PTA member Allison has asked for my help at our school. Not with school pictures or helping at a teacher appreciation day, but with landscaping.

"You seem to have a green thumb," she said. "We could use your passion for gardening at our school."

The front of our school IS pretty dull. There are overgrown daylilies and mangled shrubs. I look at it everyday when I pick up my daughter and it lacks color and interest. I knew that it needed a facelift.

"I'm no expert, " I tell her. "But if you need some help, I'm your person!"

And so it began ...

What to do with this eyesore? Yeesh. We have a handful of areas like this. Allison thought some bulbs might look nice here. Can I plant bulbs in this space and spruce it up with some Karl Foerster and some other grasses? I have little or no experience with bulbs - do I have to plant annuals over them once they die down?

What makes this planting tricky is that there is no one to take care of these plants once they are planted. They are on their own to survive.

We were supposed to plant tomorrow but recent rains postponed it until next weekend. The school's Boy Scout troop and their dads were going to do the tough work - dig out all the daylilies and rose bushes.

This retaining wall planter is attractive but look at the junk that's in there. (What were they thinking?) Should we put some perennials in there to give it some "bones"? I can see some wave petunias or sweet potato vine looking nice - spilling over the sides. Maybe a few morning glories? What do you think? What would be a good foundation for that planter?

We put out a call for perennials and so far I've yielded black-eyed susans, lots of irises, sedum and some coneflower. I have some May Night salvia that I split that we could use here too. It's a VERY long and narrow area. My master gardener friend Kathy suggested we repeat patterns: black-eyed Susan, monarda, Salvia, coneflowers - repeat. Problem is, not sure we have enough to fill the area.

All of these flowers are donated - and there's good and bad that goes with that ! I've had offers of snow on the mountain (no way!) and lots of invasive ground cover stuff. I hate to be picky but do you really want plants that are going to wear out their welcome?

Please share your ideas!


Rosey Pollen said...

So many choices! If it's a school, then some tough plants that can handle having a bit of rough handling. Maybe some ornamental grasses in amongst those flowers you suggested?

Susie said...

Since you don't have anyone to help water I would go with the most drought resistant plants such as sedums. Also maybe use some of those daylilies in the big planter and something to drape around. The potato vine or petunias would be pretty but will someone be able to water? I don't know about planting bulbs in your area. Here in our area so many bulbs act like annuals and we have to replant every season.

If you have a local county extension office they might make some good suggestions.

Kit said...

Wow, you're really taking on a project there. They should rotate the watering responsibilities among the students to teach them a little bit about gardening...they could even earn some sort of credit for it! :)

One plant that I love for its low maintenance and good productivity is a daisy. Mine could use a good thinning if you want a chunk or two. They spread, but very gradually. Also, I have some bright yellow coreopsis (as you know) that definitely need to be cut back. That too is prolific without needing much care. I'd be happy to donate both of them if you don't think it's too late to transplant.

Best of luck - I'd love to brainstorm more about it anytime!

Johnnny said...

I'd suggest verbena. Something native for sure. Have students go door to door on a plant drive. They could get cuttings from people's perennials. Future Farmers Of America students could take turns watering the flower beds. The Zen students could add a rock garden section for morning meditation groups.

garden girl said...

Hi Beth, Hope the project is going well! Sounds like you've got a good start with the donated plants. I like the idea of adding some grasses to the plan too.

I think Susie's idea for sedums is a good one. Sedums are so, so easy to start from cuttings, even if no one has rooted plants to donate, sedum cuttings can be stuck in the soil and most, if not all would root with no care at all.

Good luck with the project! I've helped with school gardens around here, and it can really be a lot of fun getting the kids involved. It can even be part of the science curriculum if teachers are interested and supportive of the idea.

One of the schools has a butterfly garden and a few veggies too. The teachers and the kids love it. I second the idea of getting the local extension office involved if possible. Master Gardeners are often interested in such projects, and may be willing to donate plants and/or time.

Kerri said...

What a fun project! You're probably all finished with it by now, but....
Nothing is tougher than daylilies. I hope you divided and replanted some of them.
You should certainly be able to plant bulbs there. Daffodils are hardy as can be. Tulips, crocus, snowdrops...all hardy.
They can be still be planted while the ground is workable. You can plant them between perennials and plant annuals over them after the foliage dies down.
You've got some good suggestions from your other blog friends.
It's great that people donated plants. Good idea to say no to the thugs. You have to be a bit choosy :)
Phlox, monarda, achillea and conflowers are pretty tough perennials and easy.
Shasta Daisies, as Kit. suggests, are great too.
I'll look forward to seeing the results next spring and summer.
Let's hope and pray for a mild winter! I'm already looking forward to spring :)

Kerri said...

I meant to write "coneflowers" :)

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