Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Three Steps in Planning A Garden–Part 3

Choosing the Plants

I've used this slide before, and will again now.  Choosing plants for your new garden space, is going to take some information from the plant to the gardener. 
The label gives the gardener all the information needed to take this plant home, and successfully adopt its new location.
The name of the plant, of course, is given -  both the common names, and the botanical name.  The grower has given the gardener a description of the plant. The colors of the foliage and blossoms are listed in case the plant is not blooming at the time of purchase.
The mature size in height and width are important so the plant is spaced properly.  Too close of placement, and the constant pruning will be tedious.  If the plant is too small at maturity, it will look awkward and get lost in the landscape. 
too close

The soil is probably the most important consideration to choosing a plant for the garden.  In Step 2, the site was diagnosed.  The moisture, or dryness has been determined. Some plants will thrive with wet soil, some will drown.
Clethera, and astilbe need moist soil.  images (1)
Areas beneath a large tree canopy will be dry.  This big root geranium never disappoints me. 100_0434

The sunniness or shadiness of the location has been observed.  ‘Part shade’ preference for the azalea means it will do best in less than a ‘full sun’ location.  Full sun is six hours or more per day.  Part shade is considered to be when the sun is available less than 4 hours per day.
100_0482 This climbing hydrangea does well in this shady part of my garden.
Know the pH of the soil. The soil test will determine of the soil is acid or alkaline. This distinction is important.
soil testerSoil tester from Amazon
Steps to take a soil test. (In case this step was skipped!)
1)Take a small spoon size scoop of soil from six or eight different spots in the area to be planted.   2)  Combine in a clean container.  3)  Following the instructions of the soil tester, take a reading. 
Soil with a reading below 7 is considered acid.  Seven is neutral.   Numbers above 7 are alkaline. 
The plant tag above states that the azalea needs acidic soil.  If the soil test indicates the soil is alkaline, this azalea will struggle and will not thrive. 
Vegetable gardens will need an acid site, as do most fruits.  Blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries all need pH reading at or below 6.5. 
The Zone limits for plants being considering for the garden is vital for survival of the plant.  When a zone is stated, that is the coldest climate in which the plant will survive. If  the garden zone is 6, plants that are hardy to zone 7 will probably freeze. 

I’ve posted these two evergreens – both are junipers, but as shown, they are certainly different.  This distinction is important for when a low grower is called for in the landscape, the garden will have a completely different look if the tall juniper is installed. Read the label or plant description to avoid this problem.
Choosing the right plant, and putting it in the right place will be the difference in a successful garden or a garden that disappoints.
The choices of plants is so personal.   Many varieties of plants are available and make each gardener’s space unique.
Trees or shrubs are available.  Large trees, or understory trees are both options. Understory trees are usually found under the canopy of larger trees in the forest, and their mature height is shorter – some about 15 – 20 feet tall.
Flowering trees or flowering shrubs can be beautiful. 

Leaf shapes and colors are endless.  This is the leaf of the ginko tree, which also has great fall color.

ginko4ginko fall color

The yellow blooms of the golden rain tree is an unexpected splash of color in summer.

golden raintree blossoms

Evergreen plants are, in my opinion, the backbone of the landscape.  The seasons come and go, but the evergreen plant holds up even in the cold of winter.
snow in evergreen

Perennials get a lot of attention by gardeners.  They grow and bloom in their time, and go dormant in winter, and grow again, season after season.  What more could a gardener ask for?  Choosing perennials for the new garden space is fun and the combinations are endless.  Most perennials bloom once during the season, and then they are sitting looking forward to next year.  So consider foliage shapes, and colors, as these will be the feature most of the time.  summer_cottage_garden_poster-p228211013233918314tdcp_400
Finally, seasonal color is easy to achieve by planting annuals each year. Again, choose plants for the sun or   shade. Consider plants that do well in wet or dry situations. 
annualscoleous foliage color
Calabrachoa, coleus, and impatiens pictured here are full of color and last all summer.

1) Envision the Space, 2) Prepare the Space, and 3) Choosing the Plants - Taking these three steps when planning a new garden space, will have the project proceed without major missteps.  Relax and enjoy the new space.
In upcoming posts, I plan to give more details on picking the right plant for the right place. I’ll discuss features of plants and where they would like to be in the garden.
Thanks for stopping by today.  I hope you enjoy your gardening experience. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Our Garden Reno–Getting a New Look

Garden Gets a New Look

This terrible view from patio is going to be the next project.  Anything we don’t know what to do with, gets dumped here. 
Old concrete, tree sticks, old chairs, fence panels, vases, miscellaneous rocks and brick – Simply an eyesore.
Did I mention broken plastic lights?  100_1077  This ash tree was half taken out by the neighbor’s tree last month in yet another storm.   And since it is an ash, and the potential for future infestation of the emerald ash bore, we are going to have it removed. 
100_1084  The two hawthorns in the front yard are going away too.  See the tilt of the one on the left?  It’s got sawdust at the base, and I’m sure the next breeze we get will have it heading right into the garage.  The tree in the forefront has sucker growth so dense that I can not begin to prune them out. 

100_1083   Unfortunately, these trees face east and get all the morning sun.  And I have the bed beneath planted with hostas. So, just as we did last summer, I have got to find a new home for these plants.
The tree trimmers will be trampling the areas. So I’ve moved benches, yard art, and plants before they get
here.  100_1092

The bright gold hosta in the photo is H. ‘Paul’s Glory’. And I moved a golden edger in the second picture.  Already had a couple of edgers here, and by filling in the border, the space now looks like it was ‘planned’ that way.  100_1095

The other tree that needs some attention is a Little Leaf Linden.  I’m not sure why, perhaps the heat and drought, but the bark has split.  Since that branch looks weakened, we plan to have the linden cleaned up a bit.
The ash tree removal at the shed is pretty exciting.  Now we can expand the sitting area off the patio and have room for the grill, and a table.  The wood pile and other stacked up ‘stuff’ is going bye-bye.  I’ll keep this project updated soon. 
Just so we don’t seem like we start projects and don’t finish them, let me show the new border garden.  100_1089100_1090
We went to the garden center today and purchased 10# of grass seed.  And hopefully, with rain expected by Monday, we are pushing to get the organic fertilizer down, and the grass seed.  I figure we will be running the sprinklers for the next few weeks, but I’m already seeing green – at least in my dreams! 
I’m getting a real excitement watching this project form into something new and fresh.  Ultimately, the garden will be less maintenance, and the grass can be mowed relatively easily.  Thanks for stopping by today. 
How are your projects coming along?  Let us know what you are doing.  Claudia

Friday, August 24, 2012

Planting Spring Blooming Flowers

Tubers, Rhizomes, Corms, Bulbs 

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Getting spring blooming flowers in the ground in the fall seems, to many, a misstep in thinking. But that is exactly when spring blooming bulbs need to be planted. thumbnailCA8JCXQ8
So many times while I was working at the garden center I had folks come in and ask for tulip bulbs or daffodils bulbs, or hyacinths ‘plants’ in March.  Sadly, March is when these beauties are strutting their stuff, but  March is not the time to plant them.

There are so many spring blooming flowers in the market place this time of year.  But not all spring bloomers are bulbs. 
Many of the smaller flowers like crocus and anemones grow from corms. cormscorm with rootsWhen planted in the fall, the corms will develop roots.  Adding bone meal into the planting hole will help these and all spring bloomer’s roots grow. 

images (11)

Tubers are a form of root that looks like this: daylily tuberstuber-stem-begoniaDaylilies  dahlias, begonias, and some lilies grow from a tuber.  In my zone 6 garden however, dahlias and begonia tubers would not survive the frozen soils.  Zone 8 climate is milder and dahlia tubers will over winter safely. I need to plant dahlias and begonias after the last frost, in May.
Rhizomes grow plants like iris and ginger. 
rhizomes of irisrhizome of ginger
Iris are hardy in my garden, but ginger, being a tropical (Zone 10) can be started in containers indoors and moved outside after the threat of frost passes (May 15 in zone 6).  Iris rhizomes are plants at the soil surface with the bottom in the soil where the roots will take hold.
Of all of the spring blooming flowers, bulbs are probably the best known of the early bloomers, Tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths are the most popular and relatively easy to grow. 
snow drop from bulbsscilla
But these two early bloomers are snow drops and scilla. Always exciting to see them in late winter, when everything else is still muddy and gray. 
muscari  mt hoodmuscari botryoides album
Muscari, or grape hyacinth, are small in height, usually four to six inches tall.  The scilla will be about six inches high, and the more popular tulips and ‘daffs’ will grow from six inches for some varieties, to 24” for others. 
These height variations will determine which blubs get planted in front of a planting or behind others to be seen.

As this chart shows, the bloom time is also considered in the planting scheme.  Planting bulbs depth is determined by the diameter of the bulb circumference.
Bigger bulbs need to be planted about 3x its size in depth.  
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The same reasoning applies when planting a container. Spring blooming bulbs can easily be grown in containers.  I have not needed to give the pot any special care over winter, but if sub-zero temperatures are common in your area, the container may do better in a garage, or unheated shelter.

Planting en mass is a great way to get a colorful impact.  The planting hole is large and bulbs are set in.  If planting layers, cover the larger bulbs at the bottoms of the hole, and continue raising each group of bulbs. dscf3496  images (9)
Digging a hole for a group of bulbs is simply done with a shovel.  However, if individual bulbs are being placed in the landscape, a few tools will make this job easier.

2009-10-13-8images (6)images (5)

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Any color you can imagine comes in a spring bloomer.  Mix pastels, or mass vibrant reds. Plant oranges with purples, or plant white and reds.

thumbnailCATV2R7S    The fragrant hyacinth is my favorite.  And when cut, they brighten any room. I really like the double blooms of daffodils. Look for the parrot tulips or the peony size tulips, stunning.

Any combination is a joy.  Check out garden center displays. Bulb companies have marketed color schemes and the possibilities are endless.  They have also packaged a mixed garden for a succession of blooms in the spring.
images (10)images (13)
Fall planting of spring bloomers is important for good root establishment which enables the bulb to have energy to grow that first shoot, and then foliage, and then blooms.  Getting the bulbs in before the ground freezes is vital for this process. (However, I have known a procrastinator or two who planted bulbs over Christmas break, and the flowers did just fine.)
With 90 degree temps again this week, I find planning for fall premature.  But getting those bulbs into the landscape now will have endless rewards in the spring.
What are your favorite spring bloomers?  Do you put any in containers?  Thanks for stopping by today, and have fun picking up a few new residents for the garden. thumbnailCAP7MWRD