Overwhelmed by Gardening - Knowledgebase Question

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Question by Kcoup
February 20, 1998
Each year I pore over the catalogs and try to get a plan in place to add perrenials and annuals for maximum color and ease of maintenance. I would really like to have one of those flower gardens like I see up in Maine, with so many different colors and textures, and they don't have that "planned out" look I always seem to create. My main problem is, however, that I quickly become overwhelmed by all the choices and the scope of the job, and make very little progress each year. I would be grateful for any advice about achieving colorful flower gardens in a heavily deer-populated area, mostly shady and with acidic soil, with lower maintenance needs than most. The deer have eaten my hostas and lilies, voles have gobbled up my tulip bulbs, and I'm not sure what kills the columbine and bleeding hearts I plant every year. Getting discouraged in Virginia...

Answer from NGA
February 20, 1998
I know how overwhelming it can be--choosing which plants to buy (keeping within a reasonable budget) and then finding a spot where they'll thrive.

Do you have any good reference books? "Perennials for Dummies" (forgive the title) is a great resource, with lots of information in an easy-to-use format. Also, National Gardening magazine might be of interest to you, with lots of "how-to" information for both flower and vegetable growing. Check out NGA's web site at www.garden.org for more information.

I often go to the library, and peruse through the colorful gardening books (that are too expensive to purchase!) It's a great way to spend the cold winter months.

Some perennial flowers for you to consider are:

Shade: Heartleaf brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla)
Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Auricula primrose (Primula auricula)
Woodland forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica)

Very reliabe perennials for areas with a bit more sun include:
Purple coneflower (Echinacea spp.)
Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia spp.)
Monkshood (Aconitum napellus)
Yarrow (Achillea spp.)
Common thrift (Armeria maritima)

Rather than tackle the whole yard, you might choose one bed to renovate each season. (Many of those gardens you've seen in Maine probably took decades to establish--and undoubtedly require a fair amount of upkeep.) A heavy mulch (wood chips are good) will keep down the weeding chores.

About those deer: there are "deer resistant" plants...actually quite a few. I'll give you
just some of them. Bulbs: allium, crocus, daffodil; Perennials: artemesia, aster, coneflower, candytuft, iris, peony and phlox;
Shrubs: boxwood, cotoneaster, hydrangea and lilac; Groundcovers: ajuga, ferns, pachysandra; Vines: clematis, euonymus; Trees: maple, birch, dogwood, pear, hemlock

All these should grow fine in your region.

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