How to Grow a Glorious Garden

Surround your patio with easy beds of lush and vibrant Supertunia and Phlox ‘Intensia’. – Proven Winners Plants, with permission.

Having gorgeous, fragrant blooms in your yard is easier than you think.

Now is the perfect time of year to enjoy a new flower garden and, with a little effort, the results will bring pleasure for years. The elements for success include planning carefully, starting out on a modest scale and following through with some regular maintenance.

Planning is Key

If this is your first garden, start small with easy-to-grow flowers, such as begonias or impatiens. These are easy to plant and flower all summer long.

If a flower bed seems overwhelming, try strategically placing terracotta pots or barrels in heavily trafficked spots and planting them as bright accents.

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The first step is to design the flower garden on graph paper to determine its size and where each plant will be placed. By taking the time to plan on paper, it is also easier to estimate the amount of fertilizer, bedding soil, and the number of plants that will be needed for each section.

An important factor, of course, is sunlight. Plan your garden for a location where it will receive at least six hours of sunlight or bright light every day. Also make sure that the land slopes away from the flower bed area, and avoid planting in problem areas that collect too much water.

Gardens are usually created according to a theme that depends mainly on your personal taste and interests. Examples of popular themes are plants that have flowers in the same color family, are fragrant, or grow to particular heights.

You may want plants that serve a particular function, such as attracting butterflies or birds. A garden may also have a theme, such as a wildflower meadow, country cottage, or Asian.

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Find out the average date of the last frost in your community and wait for at least two weeks before planting. Flowers planted later will better withstand the heat of summer and stay in bloom longer.

Deciding on Flowers

The best gardens have something in bloom during every week of the season. Determine when a plant blooms and for how long, and then mix and match so there is something in bloom all season long.

Select flowers that will tolerate the highest and lowest temperatures in your region of the country. Most flowers will survive midday heat if they have a cool respite during the night, and some flowers, such as zinnias, are sensitive to low temperatures.

It is also very important to choose varieties of flowers that will thrive in your local rainwater and humidity conditions.

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Annuals, such as lantana, verbena, impatiens, marigolds and coleus, grow and flower for only one year. They are relatively inexpensive compared with perennials, require little maintenance, and bloom profusely throughout the season. Annuals, however, will wither and die when cold weather returns to northern climates.

Perennials, such as chrysanthemum, crane’s bill geranium, salvia and phlox, offer a wide range of colors, textures and forms, and their root systems enable them to survive winters and live for years.

Look for compact, stocky plants and avoid those with brown leaves or weak stems. Buy medium- to large-size plants that will bloom the first year. Small ones may only bloom the second year or not at all. Ask the nursery to provide you with a tip sheet for the particular plants you are buying.

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Don’t forget shrubs and small trees, which bring important height to the garden, provide a backdrop for colorful blooms, and add mass to a landscape design.

Once established, they need little maintenance. If you choose ones that produce fragrant flowers, such as lilac and Viburnum, you’ll gain another bonus.

The Right Soil

Prepare the soil for your garden by first turning the top layer over about one-foot deep, or even deeper if you will be planting shrubs. Rake the soil to break up particles and existing roots, then condition the soil with compost or peat moss.

Measure the acidity or alkalinity of the soil with a commercial test kit or take a sample to your local garden center for analysis—many will do it for free. Add soil amendments depending on the pH balance. Your local nursery expert can help you decide which is best.

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All plants need the three essential nutrients that are combined in packaged fertilizers: nitrogen, which stimulates leaf growth; phosphorus, which promotes strong root growth; and potassium, which helps internal plant development.

To plant flowers, soak the soil first, then slide the plant out of its container. Loosen the roots and place the entire plant in a snug hole. Cover the plant base with fresh dirt, compact the soil to eliminate air gaps and water thoroughly. Newly planted perennials and annuals need water daily.

Maintenance Makes the Difference

Follow these steps to keep your garden looking great:

Drench seeds or transplants with water immediately after planting and continue to water daily until the plants are established. Water established flowers at least once a week during dry periods and use a watering can or drip feeder that applies water at the base of the stems directly to the soil.

Remove weeds when they become visible. Once weeds grow deep roots, they are more difficult to remove.

Cut unwanted flowers as they fade instead of pulling up the roots, which can disturb neighboring plants. Hoe the soil between the plants.

Periodically examine the garden closely for signs of pest damage. Common garden pests include slugs and insects as well as certain molds and fungi. Consult your local nursery expert for environmentally safe ways to deal with a particular pest problem.

Mulch is effective for smothering weeds, assisting with water retention and helping to regulate soil temperature. Different types of mulches include ground-up tree bark, redwood chips or even gravel.

Remove dead flower stems from perennials, and at the end of the season, remove annuals completely, because the dead plants can harbor harmful organisms over time.

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Add Special Touches

After your garden is planted and established, consider adding elements to make it distinctive. Install a stepping stone path that runs around the various plantings.

The path will allow you to walk through the garden to enjoy its blooms, and will also enable you to reach all the plants for watering and grooming.

Place a wooden bench or free-standing swing within the garden at a good resting spot. If possible, place the bench near a tree for shading.

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Consider embellishing your landscape design with container plantings. Place strawberry pots or whiskey half-barrels filled with pansy, alyssum or begonia on the perimeters of the garden, in sitting areas or on a patio.

Hanging baskets with cascading petunia Calibrachoa or impatiens placed on limbs of large trees, patio overhang or shepherd’s hooks add summer style.

Finishing touches include birdbaths and other small statuaries set inside flower beds to add focal points for emphasis and a pleasing nuance for the eye.

how to grow a glorious garden