Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Three Tiers

My Three Tiers bed has always been a bit of a challenge (its name is something of a play on Three Tears).  The top tier has done well with Cast Iron Plants (Aspidistra elatior) & Soap Aloes (Aloe maculata), but the lower two tiers have mainly been planted with annuals (though the shade makes winter annuals pretty iffy)

Last year I abandoned planting annuals in the bottom two levels, and opted for the tough Autumn Ferns (Dryopteris erythrosora) that have done well in other parts of the garden.  Then the Summer From Hell arrived, and coupled with a fallen tree that allowed additional late day sunshine to reach the bed, the ferns were toast (though the oak sprouts were still plentiful...grumble).

Thus I decided to go with more drought and heat tolerant specimens - ones that can still take some scattered shade for much of the day.  The first step was to dig out all the existing soil so it could be replaced with one more suited for xeriscape specimens.

This first step quickly turned into more work than anticipated.  The soil was so ridden with roots and oak sprouts that a regular shovel couldn't be used (it kept getting tangled and caught so that all the captured soil would spill out or the blade couldn't be lifted).  So I ended up using a trowel and my hands - a scoop at a time, the wheelbarrow loads rolled out.

The roots and sprouts were snipped and pulled until bedrock was reached.  Of course, there were also massive roots that simply had to be detoured around.

And irrigation pipes and television cables to be dodged and carefully left unbroken and uncut.

Then, in hopes of eliminating (or at least re-directing) the oak sprout return, the bottom was lined with weed barrier cloth (there should be plenty of soil above the fabric for drought-tolerant plants - I hope!).  Weaving this under the existing rock walls required some careful juggling.

Then the beds were refilled with two pickup truck loads of Thunder Dirt from Geo Growers.

Next, the excess cloth was trimmed away from the rock borders.

And finally, plants that had been patiently waiting for over a month were placed into the beds.  The middle tier received a Twin-flowered Agave (Agave geminiflora) and three Calamar Squid Agaves (Agave bracteosa 'Calamar').  I hope to eventually add some Soap Aloes (Aloe maculata) between them.  The lower tier received three Agave 'Blue Glow'.  Plans still include several 'Cherry Coke' Dyckias and, as time goes on, succulents will likely be added to help fill some of the empty spaces.

Most of the plants should eventually double in size.  So this is the new revised Three Tiers Bed.


  1. Wow, lots of work but it looks fabulous! I'll have to add these the squid agaves to my list; and the lower level agaves are beautiful.

  2. The new beds look awesome, Ronnie!

  3. Three cheers for the three tiers.....sorry, I just had to. Seriously it looks great, way to do it right. And I love your plant choices.

  4. It looks great.
    These should work well...even if we have another Summer from Hell (please, no!)

  5. That looked like a lot of work. Good job! I like the sculptural forms in the shade. I followed the link and read that the blue glow agaves are hardy to zone 9. Are you going to chance it since you're in they're protected under the trees? It seem like it would be worth the risk since it's so hard to find plants for dry shade.

    1. Might throw a towel over 'em if it dips below 26 degrees, but otherwise they're on their own. Have one in a pot that I left out over the past mild winter (only down to 30 degrees in my garden) and it suffered no damage.

  6. One trowel-full at a time! That's dedication, but it's always worth being thorough, right?!?

  7. It looks so good! It's great to get all the hard work behind you before the heat of the summer hits. I like your plant choices.

  8. Nice! A lot of work, but it does look great. Yay for xeric plants!