The Knoll Garden

This cottage garden is located in the right front part of the yard, bordered by the street on one side, our driveway on the opposite side, slightly elevated on a grassy knoll, and is a charming mix of perennials and annuals. It is the main garden viewed from the living room and where I plant my most precious roses. This not only gives me beautiful views throughout the season but also protects the roses from visiting deer that love to nibble their sweet buds and tender leaves.

Great companion plants, roses nestle among the various beds of this garden. Gorgeous white, sunset gold, coral, yellow, burgundy red, and pink, they perfume the air from early summer through the fall. Their perfect blooms are equally lovely when their petals carpet the earth. I have combined climbers, tea roses, lovely English roses, and hardy Rugosa's, full of thorns. See our Rose page.

As we live in gopher territory, all roses must be planted in deep, wire cages sunk into the ground. As making these cages is very time-consuming, additions to the rose garden are made very selectively. Some roses are also planted in barrels and tubs for protection. Crape Myrtle's shade the pansies and violas planted at their feet. The young trees, in shades of white and rose, bloom in late summer followed by a grand show in the fall, their russet leaves adding brilliance to the autumn landscape. They are a unique presence in a late summer garden.

The Butterfly Bush blooms non-stop into late fall, with lovely, deep purple, spires at each branch tip. It can easily grow to ten feet in one season! You will want several of these shrubs. There are at least three shades of lavender plus white and pink. Butterflies and hummingbirds love them! They can be pruned back hard as they bounce back in the spring. They make great fillers in the garden, giving the space a full, mature look. I have under-planted the deep purple one with strawberries, lavender Chicago day lilies, and pink petunias. The light lavender Butterfly Bush looks lovely planted with white Gaura and tall, pink phlox. Gaura has long, willowy branches covered with little white blossoms. It gives the garden a wispy, delicate look. Bees love it! The deep pink Gaura is lovely planted nearby, neighbors to a Rose of Sharon tree.

Fragrant white, pink, and rose Phlox are wonderful. Each year they self-sow in the most perfect places. There is one that is the deepest burgundy shade, it is almost like velvet. They are tall, with the tufts of fragrant flowers sitting atop their stems. After they have bloomed in the summer, I cut off the spent blooms just above a node for a new show in a few weeks. The leafy stems will develop new flowers. This plant sends plant babies all over for a pleasing ground cover which will bloom each spring. The foliage stays green well into winter, often blooming again in the fall. Such a great little plant!

In early spring, the Forsythia gracefully drapes her flower-laden branches of cheerful, golden yellow blooms over Jezebel, a lovely, white rose that blooms almost non-stop and is disease resistant. Its flowers are light pink, opening to white. She branches out low and full, making a great flowering hedge. Two planted together have covered about six feet in three years. Her blossoms are clustered at the ends of the branches and are sweet and dainty. This one has new buds almost before you can deadhead it.

There are many species of plants here, all special, each one a glory. A hand-set brick pathway winds between the white, pink-edged Mums, the roses, and variegated maple shrub. It then twists and turns past the strawberry bed, the day lilies and tall, white Shasta Daisies. Pink Yarrow, coral gladioli, and mallow complete the path and ends with the fragrant honeysuckle vine. The Honeysuckle is incredible, climbing the fences, scrambling over the Pyracantha bushes, and even daring to cover the nearest rose. The fragrance of its blooms in summer is delightful as the honeysuckle changes from white to ivory color. These are some of my earliest rose purchases in the Knoll garden:


Roundelay, a fragrant, red rose on long stems

Mister Lincoln, the deepest red rose with a full intense fragrance

American Beauty, a gorgeous clear pink, with long, thorn-less stems

Joseph's Coat, a fantastic rose. Its flowers change color as it ages, from yellow with red edging, to gold, then to russet

Tiffany, the delicate pink climbing rose, vigorous

Rugosa Hans, a deeply fragrant, disease-free rose, loaded with tightly spaced thorns, with a sweeping habit

Fragrant Apricot, perfectly lovely apricot blooms, beautifully cupped

Iceberg, perfect white, ever-blooming, and fragrant

Sunset Celebration, gorgeous large blooms, spicy scent, peachy-pink apricot color, non-stop blooms, this one is truly unbelievable

Pinata, a zesty, spectacular rose, beginning with yellow, copper blooms edged in red, opening to gold and deepening to russet, this one blooms all summer

Ultimate Pink, this is a new one, clear pink roses on tall stems, I am anxious for  her to bloom! 

An old, gnarled walnut trunk, its branches twisting and turning in a picturesque, permanent stance, supports the Morning Glory and Clematis vines in the center of the Knoll Garden. Fragrant honeysuckle clings to everything. Vinca Major with its deep green foliage carpets the ground with lovely purple flowers in the spring and again in the fall. This spreads slowly but surely, claiming the ground wherever she goes. 


Here white Cleome blooms in delicate, white sprays; blue and pink Bachelor Buttons have self-sown throughout this part of the garden. These little flowers, also known as corn flowers, are lovely in any garden. Their seeds look like little oval pockets with reddish bristles at one end. They are plentiful, at least six seeds in each dried flower and if you keep pinching the dried flowers off the plant, it will continue to bloom well into winter. They are also wonderful as dried flowers. Geraniums and fluted Shell Cosmos share the bed with Sweet Rocket, delphiniums, white iris, lavender, bearded iris (the exact aroma of grape Kool-aid!), fragrant, wild violets and white Four O'Clock's. These flowers grow so quickly and they self-sow freely. Opening in the evening, their fragrance is delightful, a delicate vanilla-honey scent. 

Three lovely white Casa Blanca lilies grace the bed in summer along with the peach and yellow gladiolus. Many buds spiral up the stems, ensuring a long, brilliant show of flowers. Of course, there is a bit of red in every garden I create, as this is my mother's favorite color. In the Knoll Garden are red roses and strawberries. The Knoll Garden is delightful throughout the seasons with many plants requiring little care. One of my favorite things is to pick a lovely mixed bouquet of flowers to take to work, and as I notice how wonderful one specific flower looks next to the other, I make a mental note to plant the two together the next year.  What looks great together in a bouquet will make an outstanding transformation into a beautiful, living flower bed!   


Along the edge of the Knoll Garden are the day lilies; yellow, and gold shades that bloom all summer. These hardy, tough plants come in a vast array of colors and have early, mid, and late season choices. A new planting is the stellar Calendula, its orange spheres brilliant in the summer sun. Of course, one of my favorites is Stella D'Oro daylily, blooming well into fall. Standing sentry over them is the Flowering Quince shrub. This is a magnificent shrub that grows slowly, but the impact she has in the spring garden is awesome. Cold hardy, her branches look lovely with new fallen snow covering them although we can look forward to seeing her jazzy, coral flowers in early spring; deep green leaves follow.


The royal purple Iris planted thickly in our gardens has a divine scent and gorgeous color! Shasta daisies highlight her royal presence in the garden, the stark contrast of the two colors make a spectacular combination. I plant these partners throughout the garden for continuity. They also tolerate sun and clay soil well. Plant these for carefree all-season color. I use a lot of natural wood mulch, gravel, and river rocks to cover our red clay soil, tucking the gravel here and there, smooth, round river rocks stacked just so, a pile here, a unique one placed there.


Mulch always gives such a finished look to your gardens, neat and tidy. It helps keep the soil moist, keeps the weeds down, and eventually breaks down, nourishing the soil. A water feature, even a small, china blue dish filled with water, in each garden will please the visiting butterflies and frogs. Even the kitties pause and sip. And there! You have created a magical world, a water garden! Be sure to place little garden artifacts throughout also; a wee wooden chair, a bit of pottery, a smooth, round rock so the creeping thyme can rest on its surface. Some of our Knoll Garden lovelies are shown below; they also grow in other garden areas. 

© 1992 Dunn Farm ~ Life in the Sierra Nevada