Thursday, July 14, 2011

Advice to the design-challenged: plant lots

It’s a good thing that the previous owners left good, well-delineated planting areas in my urban front beds, side beds, and courtyard area, because I’m not that skilled at overall garden planning and design. I just love gardens and plants. I guess I’m like those people who say they don’t know much about art but they know what they like.

This is what I like: full, colorful beds with mostly tall plants, and lots of fragrance. That said, I’ve had to compromise because of the abundant shade throughout the property. Shade will limit your color and number of blooms, depending on how much there is. But that’s OK, because I like foliage too.

My strategy has been to ignore any and all spacing recommendations that come with plants. I squeeze it all together and let the best plants win. This gives me the fullness that I’m after and is also useful in making sure I get the most bang for my buck in the few beds that have good sun.

Given my limitations, a smart thing to do would be to have a succession of spring to fall flowering plants for maximum wow factor, like daffodils to daylilies to rudbeckia to grasses in a sunny bed (with some slight additions), but that would be too limiting. So trial, error, and pack-it-all-in is still my design plan. And aim for a mid-summer peak. That’s partially for Garden Walk, but also because mid-summer is when I most enjoy being in the garden. Which is what it’s all about—not the work, the being there. Right now, the emerging lilies are making that especially pleasant.

And—let's not forget! Happy Bloom Day!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Thanks, Birds & Blooms!

I am Blog of the Week currently over at the Birds & Blooms website. Birds & Blooms is a gardening magazine that focuses on bringing wildlife to our backyards through gardening—they cover a lot of general interest gardening stuff as well. The print magazine has a 2.5 million circulation, and the website is organized by gardening region. Editor Stacy Tornio came up with some really fun questions for me; check it out!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Roses-the trade-off

For me, it's worth it, but for many other gardeners, it is not. And I understand why. Those of us who like the full, old-fashioned blooms of English or neoEnglish roses generally have to put up with lanky shrubs and intermittent bloom cycles (or even once only). On the other hand, if you'll accept a kind of boring, semi-double bloom and standard colors, you can have nice, compact ever-blooming shrub roses. They're great for roadside medians and other public landscaping situations, but I wouldn't give up garden space to them. I think many belong to the Knock Out family.

The roses I am drawn to are old roses or the David Austin line of contemporary takes on the old rose form and scent. For me, lack of scent or faint scent is a dealbreaker with roses, and too many of the modern hybrids have traded scent for disease resistance, floriferousness, and shrub form. These are all important qualities, but I don't grow roses for their disease resistance or their shrub form. I grow them for the flowers. And the scent. (Have you noticed how florist roses never have a scent—just a faint musty smell?)

This is why I tolerate the tendency of old-fashioned roses to be climbers, whether they're listed as climbers or not. My David Austin Abraham Darby gets black spot. And my Louise Odier is very stingy with her post-Junes blooms. So be it. When they make Knock Out roses that look like this (above) with a scent to match, I'll buy them.