Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
June, 2007
Regional Report

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Mixed colors of impatiens look like multicolored buttons in this colorful border.

Room For All

Most of our garden beds are not segregated by plant type. Instead, the search for both beauty and garden diversity most commonly brings together annuals, perennials, bulbs, and shrubs. A well-prepared garden bed can grow almost any kind of plant, but mixing types together offers both joys and challenges.

Shrubs "set the table," providing consistent shapes in the planting. Pruning a few inches off boxwood and other evergreens now will help to keep them thick; fertilize after pruning if water is not an issue. Consider a slow-release formula for shrubs and perennials in summer.

Perennial flowers in a mixed bed deliver the sense of season, of continuity from year to year. Whether it's oxalis clumps in a shady place or black-eyed susans anywhere else, perennials can be deadheaded if you don't want seedlings, or left to proliferate if you do. Include bulbs to brighten the bed with nearly no maintenance.

Leave a Spot
Put annuals into that mixed bed for color blasts. Use your favorites, or try new varieties and shades to keep the view interesting. When growing different plants together, it's a good idea to fertilize everything at the same time initially during the season, then spot feed what needs it. Soluble fertilizers that can be mixed in a watering can or granular formulas can be placed around plants that need fertilizer more often.

Good Combo's
If it seems like a fair amount of labor is involved in maintaining a mixed bed, it can be true. But consider the old-fashioned practice of "bedding out" hundreds of annual flowers, and you'll understand why estate gardens employ garden staffs! Smart choices will keep the flowers blooming and you smiling. Select plants for their tidy qualities; avoid rampant spreaders. Place plants in the bed so the evergreens create a frame for perennials and annuals. That way, you can work with one section at a time. Ferns and caladiums under the tree, cosmos and yarrow where the sun gets in, with the same narcissus included each vignette to tie it all together.

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