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Plan before planting your garden

Kristi Hendricks

This is the final of four articles on plant selection when planning the ultimate flower border. The first three addressed color, line and mass as design elements. This final article focuses on plant reliability.

The longer the border has flowers in bloom (preferably a four-season garden), the more you will enjoy it (VCE article 426-202.) Taking this thought one step further, plants that require the least amount of care often turn out to be those most valued over time and the ones you share with neighbors.

Some plants just shout out “depend on me” to look attractive with minimal care and few problems, returning year after year and blooming with every ounce of stored energy. These plants have grit (e.g., peonies, goldenrod, coreopsis.) But they can differ with each garden’s conditions.

So often is the case that plants would be more reliable if we planned before we planted. Location is everything when it comes to siting your plant. Know the sun angle of your area, if it receives morning or afternoon sun and full sun or dappled shade during the afternoon. Knowing whether water accumulates in the area is also essential because non-bog plants require good drainage.

No doubt, we are challenged in Western Tidewater with our acidic, thin sandy or heavy clay soils. But on the other hand, we can easily amend our soil with shredded leaves and hardwood chips given that timber is in great abundance in our area and the byproducts are readily available. Be vigilant about pulling weeds to reduce the competition for nutrients and cut back on herbicides. Your earthworms (thus the bluebirds) will appreciate your efforts.

With the volume of information available online, root out the key elements to set up your plants for success. And gravitate to those that are tried-and-true, allowing space to test and study. Flowers are easy to transplant so don’t hesitate to experiment. Mishaps are a given in the garden and just lead to greater enjoyment when success is in hand.

A way for home gardeners to grow their gardening knowledge is to join the Bring Gardening Home discussions with local master gardeners. These events are held in the Carrollton Branch of the Blackwater Regional Library beginning at 10 a.m. Upcoming topics include Best Kept Secrets (May 19) and Hot Weather Gardening (June 16). Visit blackwaterlib.org/carrollton/ for a series listing. VCE educational programs are open to all; we warmly welcome you to join the discussion.

Also, check out vagardenweek.org/ or virginia.org/historicgardenweek/ for listings of featured Historic Garden Week tour sites, descriptions and ticketing information. Some 250 Old Dominion houses and gardens will be featured in the 21-28 April celebration of gardens.