The Gazebo

We knew we wanted a screened gazebo at our new house. We had one at our old house and we LOVED it. It was our summer living room. (And we stretched it to spring and fall when we could.) The mosquitos aren’t as bad here because there’s often a breeze, but it can still be unpleasant sitting outside at dusk. Which is generally when we want to do it!

railing and flowers

We planned the deck with the gazebo in mind. There was a good spot for the gazebo at the top of a slope and the deck stairs lead in that direction. At our old house we had a cute little bridge from the deck to the gazebo. We couldn’t quite manage that here so we tied them together with a flagstone patio. (More on that elsewhere. When I write that article.)

We went larger this time, sizing the gazebo based on the widest screen material we could find: 4’. We also designed the screens to be removable so we could take them inside for the winter out of the wind and snow.

gazebo and house
gazebo and slope
gazebo and slope
gazebo from yard

I wanted the plantings outside the gazebo to have a tropical look and feel. Kind of a challenge given the snow I mentioned above. We’re in zone 5. Well, zone 6 now, thanks to climate change, but still not tropical. I started by putting annuals around the whole thing. I got over that in a hurry! Way too much work, and too expensive.

gazebo entrance
gazebo with cosmos
gazebo with pink flowers
gazebo covered in morning glories

So I searched for perennial plants that looked tropical but could either survive outside year round or vacation inside the house for the winter. (I don’t do houseplants. I’m terrible at maintaining them. I only have part-time house plants and most of them live in the basement.)

Here are the perennial plants and shrubs I came up with originally. I also planned some spots to fill in with annuals:

  • Daylilies (Hemerocallis) Hyperion and Longwoods Twins
  • Blue sedge
  • Heuchera Marmalade, Silver Scrolls, Peach Flambe, Key Lime Pie, Creme Brulee, Green Spice
  • Astilbe Key West and Ostrich Plume
  • Ferns ostrich (Matteuccia struthlopteris ‘The King’), lady (Athyrium filix femina), and maidenhair (Adiantum pedatum)
  • Siberian iris
  • Asiatic lilies (Lilium) Gerrit Zalm, Latvia, Centerfold, Dot Com
  • Black Beauty lily
  • Palm sedge (Carex muskingumensis)
  • Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Fireball’ (hardy hibiscus)
  • Darmera peltata
  • Astilboides (Rodgersia) tabularis
  • Fine Line buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula ‘Ron Williams’
  • Red tiger lily
  • Orienpet lily Shocking Sun
  • Gold Bar zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gold Bar’)
  • Weigela Wine & Roses (Weigela florida ‘Alexandra’)
  • Morning glory
  • Canna lilies
Dot Calm lilies
Dot Calm Asiatic lily
Gerrit Zalm Asiatic lily
Gerrit Zalm Asiatic lily
Lily
daylilies
Daylilies (Hemerocallis) Hyperion and Longwoods Twins
Centerfold lilies
Centerfold Asiatic lily
Latvia Asiatic lily
Latvia Asiatic lily
hardy hibiscus
Louisiana Gamecock iris
Louisiana Gamecock iris

Some of the original plants have been (or are being) removed:

  • Blue sedge: It went rampant so I removed it.
  • Palm sedge (Carex muskingumensis): It spread beyond the bed. I’m trying to eradicate it and replace it with some of the zebra grass.
  • I think the Fine Line buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula ‘Ron Williams’) is the source of many of our weed trees. I planted it to provide a palm-like look but it needs to go.
  • The morning glories went wild and it’s taken years to get rid of them. At least we think we’ve gotten rid of them. I fully understand why they can’t be shipped to some states.

Some of the original plants have died out:

  • The heuchera were overtaken by the blue sedge.
  • The astilbe are being crowded out by the Darmera.
  • Of the ferns, only the ostrich fern has survived and it has spread throughout the bed and beyond. I knew it was aggressive but geez.
  • The original Siberian iris plants have been replaced.
  • Of the Asiatic lilies only one or two Dot Calm remain.
  • The Astilboides died out and was replaced with Persicaria ‘Firetail’ that I moved from another bed. I now need to pare back the Persicaria. I replanted a different Rodgersia and it’s doing better than the original.
  • The hardy hibiscus was crowded out by the Persicaria ‘Firetail’ that I replaced the Astilboides with.
  • The original tiger lilies died out but have been replaced with tiger lilies from another bed.
  • We’ve had a succession of Orienpet lilies; we like the scent.
  • Canna lilies: I love these but I don’t have a good track record with them surviving the winter indoors.

When I switched from annuals to perennials we added a short retaining wall around the bed to create a slight raised bed. I haven’t added too many new plants but I continue to decrease the area set aside for annuals. We’ve moved in some overflow iris from our pond and they’re surviving, if not thriving. We also moved a daylily and a Siberian iris from near the front porch where they were being shaded out by growing shrubs. And I added a bearded iris and a blackberry lily.

Elsewhere we’ve had some (mostly) unwanted volunteers move in. The sea holly and black-eyed susan don’t fit the tropical theme, and while I enjoy the columbine it just takes up too much room. The orange butterfly weed can stay!

While I continue to tweak the exterior plantings, the interior remains our go-to spot for summer relaxation.