Get Your Garden Growing
A meticulously planned garden is the key to a stunning outcome that you can enjoy all summer long, with help from your local greenhouse — and maybe a little luck thrown in. As the frigid, blustery wind howls and the ice crystals pelt the windows like buckshot, it’s hard to imagine that now is the time to start planning your garden. But take heart — the colorful heads of the faithful crocuses will emerge from the dried leaf beds in nature’s cycle.
The foundation of any good garden design doesn’t begin with plants, but with the hardscape; patios, walkways, stone walls, play areas and water features. These areas will then define the remaining garden space.
Patterned brick-and-stone patios can be the focal point to which everything else is a complement. Bird baths and other statuary also provide a point of interest. Stone, pebble or shell walkways and driveways are a natural, textural alternative to boring black asphalt.
Small spaces are well served by arbors and pergolas that suspend vines overhead, like a fragrant wisteria, perfect for framing a garden gate or providing a shady respite over a bench. Espaliers permit you to support, train and control the size and shape of fruit-bearing plants like pears and apples.
Timing is everything for a garden that blooms all season long. The experts will tell you it can take up to five years to establish a mature garden. A mix of bulbs, perennials, annuals and ornamental grasses will provide the color, texture and scale you need.
Starting out with a reputable greenhouse is a good place to start. The White Flower Farm has been a valuable resource for quality bulbs and plants since 1950. You can view their catalog at www.whiteflowerfarm.com.
Make sure you only choose plants that will thrive in your temperate zone. If you’re not sure what will work, don’t be afraid to ask — your local nursery staff members can make their best recommendations.
Besides choosing the right plants for the right temperate zone, you need to choose the appropriate space as well — Be sure the tree or plant will not outgrow its space, wrecking havoc on buildings and fences.
Hardy plants, impervious to the cruel conditions of the Northeast, are a gardener’s best friend. Perennials like ornamental grasses even look stunning in the winter when the frosty wind wraps them in a silvery blanket of ice.
Rhododendrons are waxy-leaved evergreens that erupt in fabulous bundles of flowers providing weeks of showy blooms in spring.
Hydrangeas are another never-fail favorite with flower clusters whose colors range from pinks to blues depending on the acidity of the soil. Weeping cherry trees are a classic with their graceful limbs and delicate blooms.
Hosta plants, which sometimes do have flowers, are typically grown for their foliage. These early arrivals come in a large variety of leaf colors, shapes and sizes, and are an excellent border plant along driveways and walkways. Hostas will also last all season long, holding their shape until the killing frost. Though impatiens is an annual flower, it is a perennial favorite with me for its ability to bring brightness to dark shady spots, flowering all season long.
You can also think beyond the flower beds and bring a touch of color to your porch or patio with container plants. These are a practical and portable way to accent spaces, particularly steps. Planters allow you to incorporate color wherever you want in places that may not otherwise be plant friendly, like patios and decks. Containers are also great for vegetable and herb gardens, as they minimize the pests that can ravage roots and leaves. There is nothing tastier than a ripe strawberry or cherry tomato warmed by the sun, plucked fresh off the plant and popped into your mouth.
With careful planning and research, you too can develop a “green thumb.” There is nothing more peaceful or rewarding than reveling in a beautiful garden you created. Now for your next hobby, bird watching — with the garden come the birds.
Seacoast resident and designer Diane Kelley is the owner of DK Interiors.
White Flower Farm
A Few Plants and Flowers Well Suited for New Hampshire
Start growing this plant early indoors, or outdoors after the danger of frost has passed. Leaves can be cut as you please for salads, potatoes, soups, etc.
Creeping plants will make a spectacular ground cover and filler for small spaces. Also, rubbing the leaves in your hands leaves a scent you will come back for time and time again.
Grow in full sun to light shade, and when in full color the flowers will attract butterflies.
Carefree branching plants that will bloom all summer long. Little watering necessary.
Small habitat, beautiful flower and fragrance. Perfect for edging, low hedges and containers.
Easy going and thrive under a wide range of growing conditions. Most have no problem being exposed to hot sun, and will grow with no fuss.
Grows a tall stalk full of seeds that birds will flock to right up until frost–and possibly throughout the winter if there's any seeds remaining.
Although they don't love intense afternoon heat, they are easy to grow and will add a splash of color to it's surroundings.
Great for cutting and bringing a little bit of your flower garden inside. Prefer full sun and part shade. Remove faded spikes to lengthen the display.
Wonderful in the garden, pot or basket.
Perfect for low beds and pots from mid-summer to frost. Zinnias even come in a Thumbelina (miniature) variety.
Visit the UNH Cooperative Extension's gardening section for everything from tips on which flowers to choose to information about tree planting and care. Plus, check out their calendar of events for garden classes and more.