One of the main reasons that I garden today is because of my grandmother’s garden where I played, as a child. My grandparents not only owned their own home, they also owned the string of houses next to them. I grew up in a rural community, and my grandparent’s houses had immense lots. The people who rented had nice yards, but my grandmother gardened the backs of all of the yards that my grandparents owned, and on the absolute back of the land, my grandmother planted a glorious stand of hollyhocks.
Certainly, as I labor to create my own garden now, my main ambition must be that of holding on to my grandmother’s garden, my grandmother, and my own childhood. Actually, there could be no better reason at all.
There was an alley behind the hollyhocks and my street was behind the hollyhocks. As a young child, at least once a day, I used to walk through the alley, into the towering stand of hollyhocks, through my grandmother’s flower garden–and finally, to her house. As soon as I passed beneath the sheltering arms of the hollyhocks, I felt safe and protected. It was a magnificent pilgrimage, and it was a significant part of how and why I became the person that I am.
Hollyhocks grow to a height of 6′ and they have been planted in cottage gardens for hundreds of years. I treasure them for several reasons, but one of the greatest benefits of growing hollyhocks is that they provide a tall backdrop to frame what is planted in front of them. They also create a bold display that can be seen from distant parts of the garden.
Hollyhocks – Spring Celebrities [Double]
I prefer the old-fashioned single hollyhocks, but this year, I purchased some doubles.
Sunflowers are not perennials. They are annuals and must be planted each spring, but some varieties of sunflowers grow 10′ tall and higher.
I also grow flowering shrubs at the backs of my perennial beds. Several years ago, I bought a Snowball Viburnum, and it has flourished in my yard. Because the limbs arch upward and outward, like a fountain, it is difficult to guess how tall the plant has become, but it is at least 8′ wide. Early in May, at least a month before the hydrangeas bloom, large blossoms cover the shrub, providing a glorious backdrop for all of the flowers planted in front of it. My Snowball Viburnum rests behind an 8′ x 8′ arbor that I built, and its arms reach through the spaces between the boards. When my clematis vines and Zepherine Drouhin roses climbe high enough to cover my arbor, I expect a spectacle.
I took the following photograph immediately after I built the arbor, and after that, I planted Zepherine Drouhin Roses and clematises that will begin to twine up and through the arbor, and the greenness of the large viburnum will set the stage for the vining blooms, as they appear.
My tall German irises and my foxgloves grow immediately in front of the arbor. The German irises that grow here reach a height of about 3′ and the foxgloves that you see reach a height of about 4. Again, these plants are set at the back of the shorter plants. In the above photo, you see my peonies that grow to be about 30″ tall, which is slightly shorter than the plants behind them. When the roses and the clematises cover the arbor, this area will be a spectacle that people will notice from hundreds of feet away. When planning a garden, it is important to set tall plants in the back and gradually taper them forward.
I have planted Blue Angel Hostas to be fillers after the iris and peonies wilt, Hostas come in varying heights, too, and I plant my hostas short to tall, too,
Hostas in My Garden, Sorted by Height
Blue Moon Grows to 4′
Blue Angel Grows to 4′
Hosta Frances Williams
24″ – 48″ tall – 36″ – 48″ wide
Paul’s Glory Hosta
24″ tall x 48″ wide
24″ tall x 48″ wide
Wide Brim Hosta
18″ wide x 24″ wide
Forbidden Fruit Hosta
12″ high x 24″ wide
©Jacki Kellum June 13, 2017