In the previous article we discussed basic strategies to employ when planning your garden. Now that you’re ready to plant, here are some suggestions to get you started:
• When and where is your garden viewed?
Are you away all summer? Spring bulbs and fall-blooming perennials will provide your garden with peak interest when you’ll be home to enjoy it. When designing a backyard garden, plan for plants that will be in bloom during the warm weather months for an impressive show. And bear in mind that "interest" is not limited to flowers. Brilliantly colored fall foliage, peeling and colored bark, unusual seed pods and winter berries all lend to a rich and varied palette in your garden all year long.
• The right plant for the right place – carefully consider your site’s conditions prior to choosing plants for your garden. For example, knowing how much light your garden receives, and at what time of year, is essential to selecting appropriate plants. A sunny spot in February could turn into deep shade once the surrounding trees leaf out. Placing a plant in the right spot will result in a happier plant that needs minimal work to look good all season long. A perfect example of this approach is the perennial Bee balm (Monarda). Bee balm foliage is highly susceptible to powdery mildew, so it’s best to plant this perennial in a sunny spot that gets good air circulation so that moisture evaporates quickly off the foliage. (I would recommend this even for those varieties labeled "mildew-resistant.") Otherwise, you will have a sickly-looking plant by mid-summer, requiring multiple applications of fungicide throughout the season. Of course if you simply must have a particular plant no matter what, be prepared to spend extra time on its maintenance and care.
• Plan (and plant) for the future: shrubs – that small potted azalea in the nursery, left unchecked, could eventually grow to 10′ tall and wide. Check the tag when purchasing a plant and note its mature size so that you can plant it with room to grow. Once installed, regular pruning will keep a shrub to a manageable size and maintain its health and vigor. An even better alternative is to find out if the shrub you’re interested in is available in a dwarf form (typically growing only 2-4′ high and wide). Placing shrubs of this variety under a window or in the front of your beds is a great, low-maintenance alternative to larger-growing specimens.
• Plan (and plant) for the future: perennials – do you want an "instant garden," or can you wait 2-3 years for your plants to mature? Your budget may dictate the answer for you. A lushly planted perennial bed can be costly to install, but yields more immediate results. If this option is beyond your means, buy fewer plants and give the perennials you purchase room to grow. Within 3 years you will have a "filled-in" garden. In the meantime, planting annuals in the empty spots in your garden will give it a finished look while you wait for your plants to mature.
Following these basic guidelines will be a great start on the path to a beautiful garden. As you become more experienced you’ll gain confidence and be more inclined to take chances and experiment. Don’t hesitate to try new plants, experiment with different color combinations, move plants around and discard anything that is not thriving or requires excessive time to maintain. What "works" for your neighbor may not be pleasing to your eye, so plant gardens that will make you happy when you walk outside your door. Creating a garden that gives you pleasure is, ultimately, the most important rule of all.
Enjoy your garden!
Sheri Silver owns fiori garden design in Irvington – she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.fiorigarden.com.