The Q&A Archives: Learning

Question: I'm just a beginner. I don't even know the definition of most of the words used. Where do I start? Is the a book on the simplist most basic definitions. This is all so exciting and frusterating at the same time. I have put in a patio, nearly all full sun. All containers. What can I put in thats pretty for Christmas time? Any suggestions would be wonderful. Thank you.
You have a great website.

Answer: Hands down, Gardening For Dummies, 2nd Edition (By Mike MacCaskey, Bill Marken,
ISBN: 0-7645-5130-2), is the best book for beginning gardeners. This book is for you if you want to:

Create a garden for the first time
Know how to mow your lawn the right way
Find out which bugs are eating up your plants
Determine when and how much to water your garden
Attract birds, bees, and butterflies to your yard
Grow your own herbs and vegetables
Find your way around the garden center by knowing which soil amendments to buy, which tools to use, which plants to choose, and how to use pest controls.

You can turn that brown thumb into a green one by exploring these other topics:

Creating a landscape design: Know what you have; define areas and flow
Exploring annuals, perennials, bulbs, and vines: Choose healthy plants; water and feed for longevity
Buying and planting roses: Understand classifications, pruning methods, and winterizing
Putting in a new lawn: Buy seed; remove sod; explore mowers and trimmers
Planting seedlings, trees, and shrubs: Transplant from cell packs and larger containers; get bare-root or balled-and-burlapped plants into the ground
Pruning and propagating: Understand the purpose; look at tools, techniques
Dealing with weeds and disease: Identify damage; control spread

Gardening For Dummies, 2nd Edition, offers a slew of lists, illustrations, and color photographs to guide you as you garden. No matter what size your planting area, from sunny windowsill to patio to yard, you can nurture and grow a glorious garden.

As for winter blooming plants, your growing region offers all kinds of possibilities. Fall is the time to set the stage in your garden for a grand show of dazzling flowers from winter through spring. Cool-season annual flowers planted in early fall have time to develop better roots before flowering in winter and spring, and--because they start blooming earlier than comparable plants set out in spring--they bloom over a longer period.

Here are a few of my favorites:
BACHELOR'S BUTTON (Centaurea cyanus)Upright, from 12 to 30 inches with narrow gray green leaves and 1- to 1 1/2-inch flowers in blue, pink, red, and white.

CALENDULA (C. officinalis) Bushy, upright plants 12 to 30 inches. Abundant blooms resembling double daisies grow to 4 inches across in white, cream, orange, yellow, and apricot.

CHRYSANTHEMUM (C. multicaule, C. paludosum) Buttery yellow daisies of C. multicaule grow 1 to 1 1/4 inches across on 6-inch stems above mat of green foliage. C. paludosum has 1- to 1 1/2-inch flower heads with white rays and yellow centers on 8- to 10-inch stems; dark green leaves are deeply toothed.

ENGLISH DAISY (Bellis perennis) Perennials often treated as annuals. Pink, rose, red, or white double flowers 1 to 3 inches across bloom on 4- to 8-inch stems above rosettes of bright green leaves. Blooms from fall into spring, with fewer flowers in coldest months.

FORGET-ME-NOT (Myosotis sylvatica, often sold as M. alpestris) Tiny blue, carmine, or white flowers cover upper portion of 6- to 12-inch stems; leaves are soft, hairy. Bloom begins in late winter, early spring.

GLOBE CANDYTUFT (Iberis umbellata) Bushy, free-blooming plants 6 to 15 inches high (depending on variety), with flattened globes of tiny flowers. Lance-shaped leaves to 3 1/2 inches long. Available in pastels (pink, rose, lilac, salmon, white) or intense shades of red and purple.

LARKSPUR (Consolida ambigua) Upright branching plants 1 to 5 feet tall (depending on variety), with ferny foliage and dramatic bloom spikes. Delphinium-like 1- to 1 1/2-inch flowers in white, blue, lilac, pink, salmon, and carmine. Peak bloom in spring.

NEMESIA (N. strumosa) Small (3/4-inch) flowers in clusters 3 to 4 inches long and snapdragon shapes. Colors vary from bright jewel tones to soft pastels, including some bicolors. Plants from 7 to 18 inches.

PANSY, VIOLA (Viola) Pansies and violas (V. cornuta) come in many different color variations from plain to blotched. Pansies have large flowers 2 to 4 inches across; violas are about 1 1/2 inches. Johnny-jumps-ups (V. tricolor) are small (3/4-inch), normally purple and yellow bicolors. Plants grow to 8 inches.

PRIMROSE (Primula) English primrose (P. polyantha) has strappy leaves and clusters of brightly colored flowers atop 3- to 12-inch stems. P. obconica has roundish, hairy leaves and large clusters of 1 1/2- to 2-inch flowers on 10- to 12-inch stalks. Fairy primrose (P. malacoides) has lobed leaves and lacy flower whorls on stems 12 to 15 inches tall. Colors include lavender, pink, red, rose, and white.

SNAPDRAGON (Antirrhinum majus) Many colors and several forms. Standard one has upper and lower jaws. Newer types include bell-shaped and azalea-shaped (double bell-shaped) flowers. Heights range from 6- to 8-inch dwarfs to 3-foot-tall varieties that are good for cutting.

There are dozens and dozens of other possibilities - just check the book Gardening for Dummies for more ideas.

Best wishes with your new garden!

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