The Q&A Archives: advice on perennial garden area

Question: The area I am inquiring about is approximately 20ft. long and 16in. wide. Starting at top of steps and my walk way to porch in front of my house I have planted systematically a combination of these plants in the above mentioned measurements. Hosta, Sedum Autumn Joy, Coral Bells, continuing in this way until reach steps going on to porch where I have what I call Snow Carpet which was my moms, then at foundation of porch I have the last Sedum Autumn Joy. Having 3 of each plants in this area except for the Snow Carpet which has grown in a round circle and is starting to hang over the retaining wall.
It is covered with little white flowers in spring and then green through the summer. I also have purple lantanas and small gold layered flowers that look like small daisys that have grown back from previous years and are sprinkled through this area. My questions are concerning do I have to much planted in this area? The Coral Bells are first year and look healthy and have good color but have not grown
to the size expected.Everything else seems to have grown in perspective and looks colorful but I am wondering about the mix and if
all plants are going to be able to grow to their best potential? This area gets morning sun and all in all I would say where they are all planted get 4-6 hours of sun. How and when do I cut the Snow Carpet back? I clip it back after it blooms and it looks healthy but if I let it go its at the point it looks like it might have the potential to crowd growth. Also can I use the Sedum in flower arrangements without harming the look of the plant? How do I help get them prepared for our Pittsburgh winter season? Thank you for any information you can give. As you might have quessed I am working toward having a perential garden as a senior citizen I want it to look nice but not as much work.

Answer: Your flower bed sounds lovely! You are right in cutting back your snow carpet after it finishes blooming. Cutting it back will contain the size and keep it from overtaking your other plantings. I'd keep up with the practice. 16 inches is narrow for a bed so you'll need to dig and divide your plants every few years or they will grow wider than their designated spaces in the garden. Hostas and coral bells will grow the fastest, your Autumn Joy will not expand as quickly but will still need to be dug and divided eventually. The flowers of Autumn Joy can be used in dried flower arrangements but they become limp if you cut them while they are still green so they won't work well as fresh cut flowers. Cutting off the flowers won't hurt the plant so don't be afraid to experiment with the flowers. As for winter preparation, wait until the first hard frost kills the tops of your plants and then rake out all of the dead foliage. A mulch over the top of the bed will help protect the roots of your plants. Use something like pine boughs or straw as a mulch and it will be easier to remove in the spring. Failing that, a nice thick pile of dried leaves will serve the same purpose. Best wishes with your beautiful flower bed!

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