The Q&A Archives: Garden Planning

Question: Since I am very new to gardening, I could use all the help I can get. I knew someone whose garden always had something blooming from early spring until late autumn. I am pretty sure most of it was from bulb planting. I'm sorry to say I don't know the difference between annuals and perenials. Could you help me? I would love to have a garden like that. Thanks so much.

Answer: Since you are new to gardening, I would strongly suggest you start small and work up to a fully orchestrated display by adding a few new things each year. This way you will be able to observe how different plants perform for you and make subsequent choices based on that information. A garden such as you described is usually the result of many years of patient observation and fine tuning.

There are many types of plants to choose from. For example, annuals are planted each year, perennials come back from year to year. There are hardy bulbs which are planted in the fall for a display the following spring, and there are summer bulbs which are planted each spring, bloom in the summer, and are lifted (or abandoned) each fall.

A nice selection of spring flowering bulbs, some choice perennials for early, mid and late season display plus some annuals for all season continuity and color can be creaed with a little thought. By adding a few flowering shrubs and a vine or two along with a flowering tree and some plants chosen for berry display and fall color, you will begin to cover the range of what is available.

You might want to take a look at a book or two about gardening to help you get started. One I particularly like because it is very straightforward is "Gardening for Dummies" by Michael MacCaskey, ISBN 1-56884-644-4, Dummy Press. As you become more confident you may also find the more specialized gardening books in the series helpful as well -- for a closer look at bulbs, be sure to look at "Flowering Bulbs for Dummies" .

Finally, your county extension (421-6430) may be able to help you select plants known to do particularly well in your area and native soil. They should also be able to help you run some basic soil tests and interpret the results -- this will be one of your first steps toward a successful garden because good soil preparation is one of the most important things you can do.

Enjoy your garden!

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