The Q&A Archives: Tips on starting a flower garden

Question: We are starting from scratch in our backyard. We have just put sod down, and I want to create a flower garden as well. I would like tips on

Answer: Lavender, because it thrives in the heat, would be a good choice for your new garden. Other plants to consider include:

Cosmos, Cosmos, annual from seed or nursery stock, easily reseeds, with white, pink, purple summer and fall daisy-like flowers to 3 feet tall, good for daily cut flowers. Full sun to partial shade.

Eschscholzia californica, California Poppy, freely seeding annual with bright orange flowers in spring, longer lasting with some water, broadcast seed in the fall for best results, does not transplant. Full sun to partial shade.

Lavendula angustifolia, English Lavender, evergreen mounding shrub, 3 to 4 feet wide and high, producing lavender flowers in summer. Use as an accent plant, as a rounded hedge row or in rock gardens. Prune dried flower stalks. Full sun or partial shade.

Nierembergia hippomanica, Cup Flower, annual, 6 - 12 inches high with violet flowers summer into fall. Will do best in partial shade and with consistent water. Use as a border plant, for a mass of color, or in pots. Trim after blooming to encourage longer life.

Achillea spacies, Yarrow, fern-like foliage used as groundcover or accent plant, fire retardant, spreading, 18 inch high maximum, good for slopes, free blooming white or yellow summer to fall, use dried flowers in arrangements.

Artemisia species, Wormwood Sage, commonly with silver or gray foliage and pungent odor. Many varieties of varied sizes, all sun loving and drought tolerant. Use as a foliage accent color with other green shrubs or groundcovers, flowers generally inconspicuous. Cut back in winter if needed.

Baccharis pilularis, "Centennial," Coyote Brush, full sun to part shade, glossy green leaves, 3 feet high, 5 foot spread. Use as ground cover, on level or sloping ground, prune back once per year to maintain appearance.

Cerastium tomentosum, Snow-in-Summer, low growing groundcover or edging plant, gray foliage, mass of white flowers in late spring and summer, mix as an underplanting with green groundcover, and shrubs, best with light shade, will easily recover from poor winter looks.

Festuca ovina glauca, Blue Fescue, clumping bluegreen grass which forms 3 - 4 inch high mounds. Takes sun but does best in partial shade and with consistent water. Tolerates no foot traffic. Use in rock gardens, on north or east exposures, or as a border to lawns or walks. Cut back after flowering.

Gazania species, Gazania, low growing groundcover with a spectacular display of daisy-like flowers ranging from yellow to dark red in late spring and summer. Both clumping and trailing varieties. Gazania usually dies out in two to three seasons, requiring replanting. Native to South Africa. Full sun.

Helianthemum nummularium, Sunrose, evergreen, small shrub to 12 inches, grayish green foliage with a variety of spring flowers, cut back to encourage tall blooms, use in rock gardens to drape over planters, fire retardant. Partial shade or east exposures.

Oenothera berlandieri, Mexican Evening Primrose, deciduous low growing, spreading roots, with bright pink flowers, use for annual color, good for slopes, fire retardant. Full sun or partial shade.

Pyracantha species, Pyracantha, a hardy, evergreen shrub with cream white flowers in spring and numerous colorful red berries through the fall and winter. Grows 5 - 12 feet high and wide. Stems are quite thorny. Use as a screen, on a fence, or as a spreading groundcover. Full sun. Can freeze back during High Desert winters.

Rosmarinus officinalis, Rosemary, evergreen, aromatic foliage, 2 feet high with 4 feet or more spread, light blue winter and spring flowers, attracts birds and bees. Sun to partial shade. Comes in both low spreading and tall (6 feet or more) varieties.

Santolina chamacyporissus, Lavender Cotton, 1 foot high clumping groundcover with gray foliage, yellow summer flowers. Or try Santolina virens, same as above but with deep green foliage, cut back to keep low. Full sun with welldrained soil.

Thymus species, Thyme, herbaceous groundcovers for full sun or part shade, best as edging plants and in rock gardens. Grows to 12 inches, moderate spreader, purple flowers in summer. Cut back after bloom ends. Note: many herbs do well in the High Desert, but may freeze back during the winter.

Verbena peruviana, Verbena, attractive, low-growing, perennial groundcover with profuse pink to red spring flowers. Takes full sun, good for use in narrow planting beds, rock gardens, or to cover moderate slopes.

Hope these descriptions give you a few ideas for your new garden!

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