Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Landscaping & Gardening for the Non-Gardener

I'll confess, I'm a wannabe gardener.  Unfortunately, even when time and resources are a plenty, I've just never had the knack.  I really admire all the people who can DIY beautiful yards, but I'm not one of them.  I've tried various bed types, yard locations, plants & gardening gear and each year it's been lackluster results.  I'm always battling extreme weather, insects, critters, ridiculously uncooperative clay soil, but every spring a little part of me wistfully wants a lovely garden to gaze at.   

With my crafts & creative projects shoved to one side for most of the season because life has been far from normal, I was a bit skeptical a little raised bed kit and some quick shopped flowers would actually work out.  This year, despite massive challenges, I think I may have finally gotten my wish:

And it took just 3 days to actually do.  No backbreaking work and was set up in under an hour.  The most time spent was just getting the soil to fill it.  Not bad, huh?

Originally this part of my backyard was a small herb & vegetable garden.  This photo from a decade ago showed how it looked at its best when I first set it up.

Over the past several years it became super straggly.  I wish I'd thought to take a photo before I tore it out to show just how bad it had become.  I'd tidy it every few weeks, but it still looked a mess.  It would overgrow on one side and get overrun with weeds on the other.  The back section just refused to grow anything I planted despite soil changes, rest periods, etc.  That decorative fence didn't hold up either.  I had to change to one that was wood with wire to keep the wildlife from eating the few things that did grow, but that was constantly fading from the sun and getting broken pickets from the lawn mower bumping it.  I'm sure the retired neighbors behind me hated the dumpster fire view from their immaculate patio and stunningly landscaped koi pond.  So when I saw this Versailles Sunburst raised bed on a gardening supply website I was like "YES!  A makeover is the answer and it looks like even I can't screw this up!" 

This kit is made up of curved composite boards with hinged brackets that you can configure in the different shapes and stack.  The maker is Frame-It-All and, just to clarify, this is not a sponsored review, so I'm being totally candid about this item with no strings attached (which is pretty rare on blogs these days).  By layering them and locking them together with stakes, you can get a three-tiered raised bed that has 9 separate sections and makes this pretty shape:  

It does remind me of the actual ornamental gardens at the real Versailles, with all the symmetry and interlocking shapes, but a much smaller scale and without requiring a royal budget or a famous landscape architect.  A couple of hundred bucks rather than millions was enough cost for me.

Setting it up was surprisingly easy - my husband & oldest son got it all together in about half an hour (I was busy wrestling with a baby & toddler a few feet away).  I paid a little more to get the 2 inch wide boards so it would be really sturdy.  The biggest challenge was in getting the kit itself.  It's only sold online and most places had ridiculously long ship times.  When I finally found one that shipped immediately (which was actually drop ship from the maker), I was sent the wrong set.  After contacting them, then the right one arrived, but missing 2 of the key stakes needed to finish it.  The supply place I bought through (Gardener's Edge) gave awful service and but Frame-It-All was prompt in trying to sort things out, so if I ordered again, I'd buy direct for them.   

Since I didn't actually get all the parts until late June, and plant availability was limited (even more than usual thanks to the pandemic), I mainly went with perennials that are a zone hardier.  That way they should handle our abrasive MI winter better since they'll be above ground where the temperatures get colder.  I got some pretty Floribunda roses for my lowest tier that flower all summer and don't require pruning:

 A mix of black-eyed susans and marigolds for the skinny second tiers and lavender & rosemary for the largest top tier:

I impulse bought a pair of hollyhocks to go in the center, but the gorgeous flowers didn't last long, so I'm hoping they will repeat bloom like they're supposed to - for now they just look like weird stalks.  I repurposed my faux stone brick edging to make a border to keep the grass from encroaching and not have to worry about the mower destroying it like I did with the fence.

 It did take A LOT more than the 19 cubic feet of soil recommended - more like double, which mean several extra trips to the store.  It also did not come with instructions on set-up, just how to attach the brackets to the planks.  Thankfully I'd already been to the manufacturer's website, where there's a handy video to show how to easily put it all together and layer it.  

We'll see how well it holds up through the seasons, but so far I'm really happy with it.  It looks so nice (my neighbors even complimented it!) and with watering being my only maintenance for the rest of the summer, it's a speed I can totally handle.  
Finally, a little garden success!!  


  1. That looks great! Thank you for sharing at Party In Your PJ's!

  2. Gosh, it looks wonderful! You have inspired me to get on with our rockery which needs redoing.

  3. Oh my goodness, this is so pretty. You are right, it is very reminiscent of those fancy gardens at stately homes.

    1. Thanks and they best part is I didn't have to hire anyone or need a staff to maintain it;)

  4. Your garden looks beautiful.
    Have a great day,

    1. Thank you Kippi - every day I look at it I'm glad I took the plunge!


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