Where to start?

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Kazahleenah, Feb 25, 2005.

  1. Kazahleenah

    Kazahleenah Disgruntled citizen

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    Hello everyone. I am pretty new to this "flower gardening". My past experience has been with the basics... marigolds and petunias. The rest of my "gardening knowlage" came from farming and veggie gardening. Here's my 'delima'. I now live in a place that does not afford me the luxery of a nice big garden, so I have decided to start to learn about and grow some of the pretty flowers that are so hard to find around here. What plants would you all reccomend me starting with? I have a large deck and a yard... so can plant in the ground and pots alike. I live in planting zone 4... but is on the edge of 5, so many of 5's plants do grow here as well. Are there any good books for this? I'm rather lost and tend to jump in over my head, as I could see when my Burpee seed catalouge came. lol. Just thought I'd stop and ask some advice before stepping into this full speed.
    Thanks a bunch!!
    Kaza
     
  2. bonnie lass

    bonnie lass Semper Fi

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    First, think about whether you want to plant annuals or perennials. Perennials seem like a better "investment" because they come back every year, but they tend to have a shorter blooming period than annuals do. If your garden is very small, annuals may be more rewarding. Of course, there is no rule that says you can't mix the two :D I like growing plants that produce a lot of seed for me to collect and share. Some good ones, seedwise, are: black-eyed susan, shasta daisy, coreopsis, echinacea, phlox, spiderwort, and obediant plant, all perennials, cleome, money plant, and nicotiana, all annuals. I would be happy to give you any of the above if they interest you. Also, check out the Artistic Gardens web site, they have sample packs for 35 cents, so you can experiment with a little of everything!! http://www.artisticgardens.com/catalog/index.php?cPath=24&osCsid=321738c845ec7dab00aeffc9ce61c3c9
    Good luck with your garden.
     

  3. Kazahleenah

    Kazahleenah Disgruntled citizen

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    Thank you for your reply. Since I am rather new to the flower gardening, I'm not sure what ones I would like to try... Do they all grow in zone 4-5? I feel like a fish out of water here... lol. I will have one flower bed approx. 4' X 14' as well as several planters on the deck. (to start) I am hoping to have a greenhouse for next year, as well as a little learning under my belt. Thank you again!!!
    Kaza
     
  4. bonnie lass

    bonnie lass Semper Fi

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    Ahhhhh, greenhouse, this is me looking jealous :waa: Well, you certainly won't have to worry about zones once you have that. I did look up the ones I listed - black eyed susan, shasta daisy, and echinacea are hardy to zone 3. Coreopsis, phlox, spiderwort and obediant plant are hardy to zone 4. Don't worry about the zone for annuals, they're gonna die anyways. If you want to check the zone for a certain flower, this is a good site. http://www.naturehills.com/
     
  5. bonnie lass

    bonnie lass Semper Fi

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    I sent a few seeds off to you yesterday, you should have them soon.
     
  6. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    For starters, a 4' bed is kind of narrow. Ideally, you want to be able to get in at least 3 rows of plants (tall, medium and short), otherwise things tend to look a bit skimpy. It's much easier to ensure SOMETHING is continually in bloom, too!

    So I'd start by digging that 4' bed out another 2 feet, if space allows. (I'm assuming this is a foundation planting that backs up to a building or fence. If it's an island bed, surrounded by grass on all sides, even 6' is too narrow!). But let's assume this is a foundation bed.

    So, let's consider how many plants you'll need. Say you have 3 rows, each 14' long. (Of course, this doesn't mean you have to plant in straight rows like soldiers marching across the lawn, but plants are naturally going to fall into rows or bands.)

    Tall plants tend to be wide as well, so let's estimate they'll be spaced 18 inches to 2 feet apart. Therefore, you need 7 to 9 plants across the back row to fill it up.

    Middle row, smaller plants, closer spacing ... 12 to 18 inches equals 9 to 14 plants.

    Front row, dinky plants, generally very close ... 8 to 12 inches equals 21 to 28 plants.

    (Mind you, each row can contain a variety of plants, and spacing is somewhat variable ... for instance, if you put sunflowers in the back row, they're not going to be spaced 2 feet apart!)

    But let's go with this general plan, which calls for roughly 50 plants. In a garden this size, I'd recommend using a couple perennials as "anchors," with a lot of annuals for long-season color. Why? Because with the small number of plants, you can't "afford" to have something that only blooms for 3 weeks out of the summer, as is the case with many perennials! :(

    Also, take into account blooming periods. If you are using perennials and want year-round bloom, one-third of the plants should be early bloomers, 1/3 midseason and 1/3 late season. With only 50 plants, that means you have only 15-20 plants in bloom at any one time! Thus they had better be impressive enough to "carry" the garden. And the bloomers should be spaced out somewhat through the garden, so you don't have an "island" of color in a big sea of Boring Green Stuff!

    There are a couple ways to get around this. One, of course, is using annuals, which will bloom their heads off from May 15 until killed by frost, bless their little hearts! :D

    Another is to use plants with variegated or otherwise interesting leaves, like coleus, hosta, sedum, alchemilla, variegated lunaria, dusty miller, lamb's ears, etc. These plants look good and add interest even when they're not in bloom.

    Also, there are some plants that have bad habits which are more forgiveable in a big garden. Take the traditional bleeding heart (Dicentra) which dies back to the ground after blooming (and is rather unsightly in the process). In a big garden, where there are a lot of "distractions," a collapsing dicentra won't be so noticeable, and perhaps can even by concealed behind a fast-growing annual. In a small bed, it's liable to be much more noticeable. Same goes for hollyhocks, which have an annoying habit of developing unsightly rust on their leaves. In a very deep bed, say 15-20 feet, a row of blooming 'hocks across the back will show up mostly as splotches of color ... the rust won't be nearly as noticeable as it would be if viewed from only 6-8 feet away.

    In short, I would recommend planning this bed very carefully in advance, taking into account plant size and blooming periods. By planning, you will avoid buying or growing many more plants than you need. And you will minimize "down times" when nothing's in bloom. And you will maximize visual interest and color balance (in a small bed, it's also much harder to isolate two colors which will clash badly!).

    If you'll let us know whether you'll be gardening in sun or shade, and the colors you have in mind (keep in mind the color of the backdrop, if it's a building ... since painting my house red, boy do I have some clashing colors in my foundation plantings! :eek: ) I'd be happy to make some specific recommendations.

    Good luck and happy gardening! :)
     
  7. Kazahleenah

    Kazahleenah Disgruntled citizen

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    Willow Girl.... hehe sounds like my new landscape project would have you in a tizzy if you could see the full scope... lol. The "4" foot bed is backed up against a white home... with a window above (4.5 foot up)... I'll go measure to see if I can open that to 6'....Although I LOVE purples... I know the space screams for height, so I have (so far) been looking at the Cornflowers and Zinnas.... (yellows, oranges etc.). The deck however, I would like to see pinks and purples. I have a row of TALL pine trees in the back of my place that I have pondered trying assorted sunflowers as a "tree liner". (and birdfeeder this comming winter) The space gets a LOT of sun, even tho against trees and I think it would be pleasing to the eye ..... IF it works as I plan. lol. I am both excited and nervous.....

    Kaza

    oops.... it's 97% sun.... except wee hours of the morning will get a lil shade.
     
  8. Jack in VA

    Jack in VA Well-Known Member

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    I would say for a beginner, assuming youre in the sun, plant a mass of Zinnias.