Salisbury, MD. One of the true pleasures of gardening is to watch your garden evolve into something personal over the years, something that causes you to smile whenever you look at it. Accomplishing that starts with one simple and often overlooked fact: know what you like.
It may sound oversimplified, but here's the deal. If you don't know what you like, how are you going to develop it in your garden? You can purchase a mish-mash of whatever is on sale or looks pretty as you walk past , but it's nearly impossible to pull those kind of purchases together into a cohesive plan that delivers a truly pleasurable, well thought out garden.
The Gardening Grannies suggest that, before you go one step further, you ask yourself several very important questions:
1) How do you really feel about color? Do you have a consistent favorite or do your preferences change at random? If last year you planted lots of oranges or reds and this year you want blues and purples, the Grannies suggest you do your permanent plantings in white and then you are free to change your palette according to your whim with annuals. Do you like a wide variety of colors or do you prefer a monochromatic color scheme? Pick up a gardening publication and leaf through it quickly. When you see a picture that grabs your attention in a positive kind way, take a few minutes to analyze it. Try to determine what makes it attractive to you. If you are successful at this, it will go a long way toward helping you develop your own personally pleasurable garden.
2) Do those preferences change from season to season? If, for instance, the yellow and white of daffodils thrill you in the spring but you've got to have those red, red roses in the summer, plan for it. Plants that don't bloom at the same time aren't really in competition with each other and you can work out seasonal changes for your color preferences. If you love those bright jolts of color, you may find the cool greens and whites provide a comfortable counterbalance.
3) How does the raking of leaves strike you? If you would rather gnaw your arm off than spend an afternoon raking leaves, stay away from planting trees that produce a lot of them and, for Heaven's sake, don't buy a house in the woods! Granny Griffith lives in the woods and loves it, raking and chopping the leaves every season and mulching them back on her large number of flower and raised veggie beds. Granny Greenthumb also used to live in the woods and Grampy Greenthumb absolutely hated dealing with the leaves and, since leaf raking was part of his matrimonial job description, they eventually moved. Now, the Greenthumbs live on a large nearly treeless lot and they garden in full sun and purchase their mulch locally. Both Grannies are happy. "Different strokes for different folks" as that old saying goes.
4) Do you like the look of bare branches in the winter? If so, grow deciduous! "Deciduous" simply means that they drop their leaves in the winter (see warning in question #3). If, on the other hand, you find the look of bare branches to be depressing and/or unattractive, at the risk of stating the obvious, don't plant them. There are a large number of trees and shrubs that drop their leaves in the winter and a large number that don't. If you see something you like and it doesn't give you all the information you are looking for on the tag, ask your local nurseryman. He or she will be glad to answer any and all questions for you. After all, s/he wants you to be a happy and satisfied customer who returns to them year after year.
5) Where do you like to see your blooms? Do you like to see something blooming in each section of your garden or do you prefer to see several plants in the same area blooming at the same time? All of the pictures in this blog are blooming at the same time in Granny's garden….along with a vast array of the orange and yellow witch hazels, bright yellow forsythia, red tulips and a variety of yellow, orange and white daffodils. It seems that Granny needs a jolt of color to brush away the winter doldrums. You, on the other hand may prefer a less explosive garden view or perhaps even a single plant in bloom at a time.
To go back to our premise: Know what you like. Plan for it. Develop it and enjoy your garden this summer as you have never enjoyed it before.
Gardening Grannies are a group of avid and Master Gardeners who live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.