Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Horseshoe Garden

The horseshoe garden, at the foot of the deck, began as a small round flowerbed some ten years ago. I made the original bed using a no-dig method, layering newspaper, compost, peatmoss, and top soil.  I placed a water fountain in the middle and planted catmint, daylilies, and mums for three season blooms. Later I added primula and sweet William.

The original round flower bed at the foot of the deck.

On a garden tour I saw a plant I had to have. One of the gardens we visited featured the beautiful gooseneck loosestrife, Lysimachia clethroides. When I saw the plant for sale at our local flea market, a few weeks later, I bought two. I planted one in the main cottage garden and one in the round bed. The bees and butterflies loved it.

Gooseneck Loosestrife Lysimachia clethroides

Gooseneck loosestrife is not invasive like its cousin, purple loosestrife, but never-the-less it is very aggressive. My new plant loved the compost-rich composition of the round bed and eventually it crowded out everything else planted there.

Two years ago, I moved the catmint into the cottage garden. The mum died, leaving the daylilies, primula and sweet William.  Subsequent years, I became tired of pulling out loosestrife each spring from around these remaining plants. I found it impossible to remove gooseneck loosestrife's deep strong roots, so just pulled off the tops.  Last spring, I had enough. When the loosestrife appeared, I saw it was even more pervasive and decided to remove it and rework the bed. I took away the rock surrounding the bed, placed the daylilies, primula and sweet William on one side in pots, and called my helper, Mike, who has a backhoe. It took Mike and two other men, plus the backhoe, several hours to remove all those roots.

They took out three wheelbarrow loads of the offending plants plus roots. I put the vegetation in black garbage bags, which H.H. placed in a sunny spot at the edge of the top field. I wanted to be sure the plants would die and not spread through the corn field.

Now I could begin from scratch and this was the perfect opportunity to expand the area. Again using the lasagna method, I built a new bed taking it all the way up to the porch trellis. This solved another problem: The path between the round bed and the deck was too narrow for a lawnmower, and the foundation bed was too small for the clematis and grape.

The path between the round bed and deck was attractive but impractical.
I made the new garden as wide as the deck, surrounding it with rocks. (Gardening in the Poconos means an abundance of rocks.) It looks square in the picture, but actually it is more curved like a horseshoe. H.H. named it The Horseshoe Garden.

The left side of the horseshoe garden is in dappled shade and the right side has part sun, with full sun in the top right corner. I listed plants for each of these conditions, focusing on native plants. I split up the sweet William and planted it along the front edge, placing the primroses at the back. I put the daylilies on the right side where they would get more sun. I added native plants: hydrangea, ladies mantle, giant blue lobelia, and bearded iris. Also, I planted a hosta and a hellebore. A friend gave me some rose campion from her garden.

Sweet William Dianthus barbatus

When I purchased a new plant I placed it in its pot in the horseshoe bed and left it there for a few days until I was sure it was the right place...

Sweet William along the front edge.
Mophead Hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla 'Perfection'
Lady's mantle Alchemilla mollis 'Thriller'
Giant Blue Lobelia Lobelia siphilitica
Rose Campion Lychnis coronaria
Iris Iris germanica 

Finally, I added snapdragons that H.H. had grown from seed. They were my best bloomers, blooming through the first frosts.

 I snaked a soaker hose around the plants and covered it with a layer of mulch.

I am still growing gooseneck loosestrife in the cottage garden area where the soil is less rich, so it has not been so invasive. When I give my beds a top dressing of compost in the spring, I am careful to avoid this aggressive grower.

Gooseneck loosestrife in the cottage garden.

Did you make any big changes in 2014 or plan one for 2015? I'm pleased with the Horseshoe Garden and look forward to following its progress as the plants fill out. 

The finished Horseshoe Garden welcomes you to our home.

Happy Gardening! Happy 2015!
Pamela x

Sign in the Horseshoe Garden

~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. It's so inspiring! I want to add water component on my garden, but I have no idea, cause I only have a little garden.

  2. Nice post about this particular garden and what you've done with it. I love your rock border and the sign in the garden.

    Happy Gardening ~ FlowerLady

  3. I've never grown Gooseneck loosestrife, but it often tempts me when I see it in other gardens. Maybe if it was contained like mint, with underground barriers? Or maybe I should just skip it! Ha ha

  4. What a beautiful way to lose some lawn.

  5. I've heard Gooseneck Loosestrife can be quite invasive - one person in my area has almost a field of it, the patch has spread so much. It is too bad, as it is a gorgeous plant and the bees sure do love it. Your new Horseshoe Garden is beautiful, and I know it will look great all filled out! I love beds edged with stone. Now that I live in the Northeast, I'm excited to take advantage of all my natural stone (though, boy is it work digging them out!)

  6. I love the Gooseneck Loosestrife, it's wonderful for flower arrangements but in my garden it's rather invasive. I'm sure your horseshoe garden will be beautiful next summer!

  7. It's always a pleasure to visit your garden and see your beautiful flowers

  8. How interesting to plant a bed with different light conditions! I like how you let the pots with plants to stand for some time to see if the spot is right for them!

  9. Very pretty bed Pam. As much as I like the loosestrife for wildlife, I would never plant it because as you say, it overtakes all other plants. I am not sure having it in a less rich soil will solve the problem over time, but maybe your conditions vary from here. In our area, it is extremely aggressive even in heavy clay soils.

    1. Hindsight is 20/20 they say, and if I'd known how aggressive they are, I probably wouldn't have bought the plants, although the one in the cottage garden is definitely more manageable. I bought the loosestrife before I took horticulture classes and my gardening in this country was very trial and error. In addition, I learned my lesson about buying plants on impulse from someone at a flea market.

  10. Oh what fun to clear the bed, and be able to start fresh!
    So tricksy to squeeze new plants, and new ideas around existing problem children.
    And you start right with A Name ;~)

  11. You've chosen some lovely plants for your new horseshoe garden. I have rose campion in my own garden, it's such a good doer flowering on and on.

  12. Happy New Year Pam & congratulations on your flower bed transformation. Your home looks amazing against such a lush backdrop & the horseshoe bed a true welcome.

  13. Your new garden is lovely and I enjoyed your explanation of the process. Gooseneck loosestrife is definitely invasive: a non-native plant that spreads aggressively to cause environmental damage. And I would add that can't be easily removed when you want to get rid of it. I agree that it is beautiful, but it should only be grown in an area surrounded by concrete like a hell strip or parking lot island. I want it here but have no suitable location.

    1. Gooseneck loosestrife is not on the Pennsylvania Invasive Plants list. It is not on the Watch List even. Butterfly Bush, however, is on the Watch List. Maybe gooseneck loosestrife should be there, too..

  14. Oh my, what a heavenly garden! Very inspiring! No wonder you are happy about your horseshoe garden! It's truly marvelous:) Enjoy it at the fullest. I sure do!!

  15. Sometimes it is nice to make a fresh start and begin with a clean slate. I have ever heard lots of warnings about Gooseneck Loosestrife. Like you I have learned to avoid impulse purchases. These days I research anything unfamiliar. I hope your horseshoe brings you good luck with your renewed garden!

  16. I love your new horseshoe bed, Pam. It's going to be lovely sitting up on the deck and looking out on it.

  17. How do I contact you to book a workshop for my Garden Club?

  18. I'm new to your garden blog and LOVE IT. So glad I found you. The tour is just what I needed today. Love your garden and look forward to your blogs.