With warmer weather approaching, now is the perfect time to begin a flower garden. But before you rush out to buy plants, take a moment to do a little planning. It will be worth the time.
One of the first steps is to determine your garden’s shape and size. In selecting the area, ask yourself a few questions. Is the garden sunny or shady, wet or dry? These characteristics are important in determining what kind of plants will thrive in your space.
Once you have decided on the space, you can outline it with a garden hose to make an easy template for digging. Walk around your proposed bed and look at it from different angles, paying close attention to how the space will be most often viewed.
Don’t get overwhelmed. Gardening is a process. You can always start small and increase next year. If you’re not quite ready to “dig in” you can even start with large pots or a raised bed.
Once you have a space in mind, it’s time to consider garden style. A sleek, mid-century modern house might call for a contemporary bed with a minimalist feel, and hard, straight lines with well-defined beds. A cottage garden is lush with a variety of flowers, often native species. This type of garden uses more of a mix and match approach and often incorporates whimsical garden art or winding paths.
If you are interested in having cut flowers for your home, a perennial cutting garden is ideal, and if you want to draw wildlife such as birds, bees and butterflies, consider a nectar garden.
Now you are ready to research the types of plants you want. The USDA has created a growing zones map that will help you determine what plants are hardy in your geographic area. The piedmont is in zone 7. Plants are usually marked with tags that tell you other important growing information such as whether the plants needs full, partial sun or shade and its height and spread.
Next there is the choice between annuals and perennials. Annuals, as the name suggests, must be planted every year, while perennials will return and often increase year after year. While perennials are long-lasting, annuals have a longer blooming season and do not have to be thinned the way perennials do.
Consider not only how long your flowers will bloom, but when they will bloom. A combination of spring bulbs, summer perennials and fall annuals will assure blooms through most of the year. Think about the color scheme and consider using solid blocks of color for impact or a mix for a informal feel. Complementary as well as contrasting colors work well. Take the time to research plants that grow well in your space, fit your style and work well with your garden design. Tour formal gardens for inspiration and talk to experienced gardeners, greenhouse owners and your local extension agent or garden club. These are all invaluable sources of information.
Also think about the height of plants. If the bed is against the house, place tall plants in the rear and smaller ones on the outer border. If the bed is round, place the tallest plants in the center and lower ones near the outer perimeter.
Now that you’ve decided on plants, you’re ready to prepare the garden space. Remove all grass, leaves, and other plant material.
After planting, it’s important to mulch well to help plants retain moisture and help control weeds. You will also need to water regularly until they are well-established. Use a rain gauge to determine if plants need water throughout the growing season.
Follow these steps and you’re sure to have a garden you can be proud of. Don’t forget to evaluate at the end of the season and make changes for next year.