Sooner or later, most gardeners who have more than a couple of planting areas will reach a point where referring to a plant’s location simply as “front yard”, “back yard” or “side yard” just won’t do anymore. This is where the Naming of Beds – which may not be quite as elaborate as T.S. Eliot once posited in The Naming of Cats, but sometimes a challenge – comes into play.
Garden bed/border names often start out as very basic; there may be a Patio Bed, a Front Walk bed, a Poolside Planting. Some will be geographically based, e.g., the North Border, Rear Fence Border, and so forth. But as the beds acquire new occupants, or if a plant, shrub or tree becomes of special importance, such names often seem … inadequate.
I named none of the beds in my first garden, partly because my only record-keeping consisted of a never-ending supply of plant markers and notated paper catalogues. Also, considering that the total planting area (excluding grass) was about one-fourth of a completely flat and open 0.26 acre that could all be seen at a glance, border-naming didn’t seem necessary.
My second garden was where I first got into garden-bed-naming, because I created every one of them from scratch. I ended up with five beds here (which can be seen in My Second Garden) but only two received “formal” names: the Herb Garden and the Secret Garden.
Because my third garden was larger (1/2 acre) and had multiple planting areas even before I got my hands on it, it became imperative to distinguish them individually; that was also when I began to keep very detailed records. Scrolling through my Word document/database for that garden, there are 25 distinct planting areas! Admittedly, some of these are subdivisions of what normal, sane people would probably have lumped together under a single name.
For example, the border – about 2/3 of which is seen in this photo taken from the second floor — that stretched along the length of the rear fence/property line was 150 ft wide and about four to five feet deep. Most people would just call it the “rear border” but my inner Organizer Nerd would have none of that. That’s how I ended up with five subdivisions named (from the west to the east corners) the Cherry Corner [from a large bird cherry which I eventually had cut down, thus a re-name to Former-Cherry Corner], the Mystery Shrub Bed [which after the addition of a bench, became the Black Bench Bed], the Hydrangea Bed, the Non-Hydrangea Rear Fence Bed [there was so much stuff in there, I had no idea what to call it] and the Sweetgum Corner.
Even so, most of the names in that garden were prosaic or geographical: the Driveway Curve, which led into the Front Walk Planting (which contained The Bay); the Lamppost Bed, the Living Room Window Bed, the Iron Gate, the Side Door Corner, and so on. The two most creative were the Chocolate Garden and the Cat Corner, so named because it literally formed a corner and there was a statue of an inscrutable-looking cat right next to it. My Word document record/database ended up being 21 pages long, most of it single spaced, and so some kind of organization was absolutely necessary!
My current garden-bed nomenclature here at the Money Pit has acquired more personality. Oh yes, I have a Driveway Bed and a Mailbox Bed, but those are either almost empty or are not even close to being worked on yet. Besides, their names are eminently logical for what they are. There’s the Walkway Bed (also logical) and the Portico Bed North and Portico Bed South, because the front steps and door are in the center of same. Those two are essentially mirror-image beds anyway.
There’s also the Large-Cotinus Bed (as opposed to the Small-Cotinus Bed, which has no room for anything else but the cotinus and the variegated abelia that it’s constantly elbowing) and an even bigger existing bed that is centered by several extremely large and spreading yews that are in dire need of some growth control: Of course, this is the Yewmongous Yew Bed!
The back yard is where the planting-bed names get more creative.
Originally dubbed Patio Bed #1, this is now the Fruit Salad Bed as of this year. No, seriously. It makes total sense. The season starts out with white violets (whipped cream), and then starting next spring there will be seven of the dwarf bearded iris ‘Pinkster’ which has pale strawberry-colored standards and falls, a blueberry-blue beard, and a touch of tangerine orange in the throat.
These are followed by an evergreen azalea that was already here, a late bloomer (early June) with very large papaya-colored flowers splashed irregularly with creamy white.
The anonymous hosta is clearly a combination of lemon and lime! In July, the adjacent miniature crape myrtle ‘Cherry Mocha’ will start to bloom; its new leaves are a persimmon-red that deepens to the color of ripe Marsala grapes, the flowers of course being cherry red. And the dwarf spruce ‘Ruby Teardrops’ has bright Damson-plum-glaucous blue needles all year and small raspberry-red cones in spring.
What used to be Patio Bed #2 is The [Dwarf] Pinetum currently in progress. Patio Bed #3 is currently known as the Iris Bed, but only because the twelve of them collectively outnumber the singleton Disanthus ‘Rikyu’, Thalictrum ‘Black Stockings’, and Leptodermis oblonga which are also in residence. All of the irises will eventually go into two of the currently-empty/unnamed beds, at which point the Iris Bed will morph into something else, no doubt.
The small bed along the west side of the sunroom is currently known as the Tree Peony Nursery because the surviving baby tree peonies will continue to live there for at least another year.
There is a Black Bench Bed and a Stone Bench Bed, both of which are still very much works-in-progress with only a couple of plants thus far. Next year I hope to replace the black aluminum bench with a 4-ft-wide stone one, which will require re-naming them as the “Small” and “Large” Stone Bench beds.
There’s also what was first slated to be Chocolate Garden 2.0 but was re-imagined as the Courtyard Bed with an existing Pieris and a new Loropetalum as the star players instead; also the empty Bridge Bed West, which used to be Denny’s Bed (because of my bronze crane named Denny, whose ultimate ‘bridge side’ is now somewhat uncertain although for now he’s still there) and the Bridge Bed East, which used to be the Lantern Bed until the lantern was relocated to a new section which will be made into a Japanese Woodlanders planting, which itself is adjacent to Marla’s Bed, named after Marla Maple of Oakleaf Olympics fame. A new very small bed created next to the DIY shed-area patio is the Shed Patio Bed (okay, that’s dull, I know); and a nearby empty-till-next-year-or-later bed is the Cloverleaf because that’s what the remaining stump(s) of the former triple-trunk oak look exactly like.
The rearmost raised bed, which used to contain many things that were eventually ripped out except for a large crape myrtle, went from being the Ninebark Bed to the Crape Myrtle Bed, but when my long-awaited Halesia ‘UCONN Wedding Bells’ went into it last summer, it immediately and permanently became the Silverbell Bed.
A nearby ground-level bed once hosted several enormous ornamental grasses, now thankfully gone. It’s currently empty, and probably will be until 2022, so it’s now just the Ex-Grasses Bed.
One of the largest beds-in-progress is the Four Seasons Bed, whose raison d’etre is to have Something of Interest occurring during every month of the year. It will definitely take another couple of years to completely plant up. (You can see the empty Cloverleaf in the background.)
Four anonymous hydrangeas placed into the grass in this area by a previous owner now have their own proper bed edges and an upscale name: Hydrangea Row. Athyrium ‘Ghost’ is slated to live in that empty front area shortly.
There are still plenty of utilitarian or geographic bed names here, such as the Rear Fence, North Fence and South Fence Borders, but those are all 95+% populated by the large trees and mature shrubs that were here when I bought the house.
I am semi-appalled to discover that I now have 37 (!!!) ‘named’ planting beds/borders/areas within this half-acre that also includes a house and a driveway and two patios – and that’s only if the three small beds, one on each side of the sunroom, are counted as a single area instead of being subdivided into Sunroom North, Sunroom South (still empty), and Tree Peony Nursery … which is the way those areas actually do appear in my database.
Do you have any creative or unusual names for your planting bed(s)?
Oh, I just love this! Of course all my beds are named–it never even occurred to me that people didn’t do this.
I have names as prosaic as The Perennial Garden and as creative as the Elm Garden and the Magnolia Garden (creative because neither garden contains an elm or magnolia–that’s what they formerly contained).
Where you saw my well-grown tree peony is the waterfall garden south. Of course there’s a north waterfall garden as well, bifurcated by an actual waterfall and pond.
I even have a north berm–if you want a catchall bed!
You have a beautiful garden. For some reason ” Chocolate Garden” still brings a smile to my face. “Fruit Salad Bed” does too. Many thanks for sharing.
Adine from California
It all sounds very complicated, how do you remember all their names? Actually now I come to think of it, my beds are named but I haven’t got separate names for parts of beds. How are your tree peony babies coming on?
The tree peony babies are pretty much ‘tweens’ by now, and are almost but not quite twice the size that they were last June. “Porthos” is definitely going to be the first of the three to produce a flower, but even he has at least another year to go. A very large Kwanzan cherry that shades their nursery bed for most of the afternoon is slated to be trimmed back sometime within the next month, and I suspect that will give all of then a bit of a boost growth-wise. I’ll probably post a photo-update at the end of this summer. 🙂
As you may know from my blog, my beds are also named. The only name that is at all creative is The Left Bank Bed, which is on the left side of the driveway (when looking from the house). Thank you for the tour of your named garden beds, I had no idea your garden was so extensive!