Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
March, 2010
Regional Report

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You, too, can have a beautiful flower garden like this!

Planning Pays Off in the Flower Garden

So, this year is the year of the magnificent flower garden, right? If you start planning now, you will be ready to get started as soon as the weather breaks, which won't be long now.

Time Frame
When planning a flower garden, especially a large one, you will first need to figure out your time frame. You can certainly plant it all at once although this tends to be expensive. The other option is to spread it out over a few years. Start with the basic bones and then add to the garden as time and expense allow.

Maintenance Time
Next, figure out just how much time you have to put into the garden. Perennial gardens tend to take a little less maintenance time than annual gardens, but not much less. They still need quite a bit of gardener time to keep them looking good. How much time can you give each week, and perhaps more importantly, how much time do you want to give each week? You can reduce the time needed by planning to use grasses and flowers that don't need frequent deadheading or dividing.

Decide on your site, basing the decision on the amount of sun and shade needed for your favorite plants. Look at soil basics such as how wet or dry, how well-drained and how rich your garden bed is. Then, find the faucets. This may sound simplistic, but if you don't have easy access to water or irrigation, your garden will languish.

Once you've decided where to plant, you will need to consider any hardscape you want to include. This is the most expensive element of the garden, so you want to make careful decisions and avoid mistakes. This includes your paths, edging, paving, statuary, gazebos, arbors, planters and fountains. If you want to include a water feature, make sure your siting is right and you have electricity available for pumps.

Garden Style
Next comes the style of garden. Do you want a formal border garden, a cottage garden, a garden specifically designed for fragrance or cutting? There are a myriad number of choices, and often we start with one idea in mind and then it morphs into another type of garden altogether. And this is okay!

Once these elements have been decided upon, you can begin looking at plants. Your goal should be to look at plant form, texture and color, and bring them all together into a harmonious tapestry. Even though it's tempting to start by making lists of favorite flowers, start the design with shrubs and trees as "bones" to give the garden structure. These plants give you year-round interest and actually tie the garden together.

Now, start looking at flowers. Remember that each plant is enhanced by another, and no plants stand alone. You will need to coordinate bloom times, colors and heights. You will have the best luck if you plan for a spectacular show once or twice a year and let the rest of the time be muted. Use annuals, perennials, bulbs, herbs and roses, and don't forget the beauty of foliage texture and color.

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