The Q&A Archives: Garden

Question: Hello, I'm having a large event outdoors NEXT summer. Being the novice gardener that I am, could you suggest any perennials that I could purchase and plant THIS summer to have a profusion of flowers next year? I live in the mid-atlantic and my zone is 5-7. Also, I have a lot of clay in my soil, what preparation can I take this year to make everything work for me next year? Thank you.

Answer: You are right on the mark when planning your garden. It takes a while to become established so starting now will give your garden a mature look next summer. Even though perennials have the ability to come back year after year, their actual blooming season is often relatively short, and for that reason it is best to plant a variety of perennials, which bloom at different times. This is the best way to provide a season full of beautiful blooms. The right combination of perennial plants will ensure that something in your garden will always be blooming, and combining colors carefully will help ensure that those blooms will be stunning and beautiful.

Some gardeners prefer to use spring flowering bulbs such as crocus, hyacinth, daffodils and tulips to start the growing season off right. In addition, other plants that bloom at the same time, like rock cress, bluebells, and bleeding hearts can provide a striking contrast in the garden bed.

For late spring color, add some false indigo, columbine, candytuft, leopard?s bane, bellflower, peonies and oriental poppies. These flowers provide some gorgeous blooms in the late spring, and they often last into the summer months as well.

For mid to late summer blooms, try some mountain bluet, yarrow, snow-in-summer, garden lilies, violet sage and stonecrop. These flowers are great replacements for the faded spring and early summer flowers.

The late summer and fall seasons bring perennials like aster, boltonia, blue leadwort, mums, purple coneflower and plantain lily. Other great fall perennials include black eyed susans and goldenrod.

As you can see by the above list, it is possible to use a clever combination of perennials to provide striking color and contrast throughout the entire growing season.

Amending clay soil is your first step in creating a wonderful garden oasis. Organic matter such as compost, aged manure, shredded leaves, etc. should be incorporated prior to planting. First, remove weeds and debris, then rake the soil level and top it with 4-5" of organic matter. Dig this in to a depth of 8-10 inches, rake smooth and plant. You can also spread a few inches of organic matter over the bare soil after planting. This mulch will help suppress weeds, moderate soil temperatures and release nutrients into the soil.

Best wishes with your landscaping project!

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