Gardening Advice: Avoid Pitfalls With These Garden Design Tips

Use these garden design tips to plan an attractive garden filled with healthy plants.

| June 2012

  • Tall-Plant-Shading-Small-Plant
    Midway through the summer, the verbascum is suddenly towering in front of the irises or petunias and they are lost to view, and the flowerbed just looks wrong.
    Courtesy Timber Press
  • Anxious-Gardener-Cover
    “The Anxious Gardener’s Book of Answers” by Teri Dunn Chace identifies the 100 most common gardening mistakes and gives you the information you need so that you’ll never make them. Or, if you’ve already goofed, it tells you how to fix the mistake.
    Courtesy Timber Press

  • Tall-Plant-Shading-Small-Plant
  • Anxious-Gardener-Cover

Your garden is supposed to be fun — a place to relax in and recharge your batteries, a source of beauty and pleasure. But all too often, things go wrong. Those expensive tulip bulbs you planted last fall never came up. Your lilac doesn’t bloom. The lawn looks terrible. And worst of all, you don’t know what to do about it. The Anxious Gardener’s Book of Answers (Timber Press, 2012) contains great gardening advice to help you solve virtually any gardening challenge. In this excerpt from the chapter “Design,” author Terri Dunn Chace provides garden design tips for avoiding common mistakes. 

Not paying attention to the bloom season of the plants you pick

You want a garden bursting with color, so you head to the garden center on a nice spring day to buy all sorts of plants. You were smart enough to choose annuals on the verge of blooming, hinting at the glorious show that soon appears in your yard. If you selected perennials, you picked ones that were in bloom or looked like color was on the way.

The peak passes, flowering slows down or stops—and it’s a letdown. Looking back, you’re disappointed. You wonder if anything blooms well later in summer or in the fall, and how to make a longer-lasting show.

The right way to do it: While it’s true that many popular plants, annuals and perennials alike, bloom around early summer and then slow down, you can get an extended show by becoming a more educated shopper. Impulse buying is not the way to go. Make a list ahead of time, just like you do when you buy groceries with a special recipe in mind.

Information about bloom seasons is widely available. Group your wish list into late spring, early summer, midsummer, and late summer into fall. Make a separate listing of plants that bloom over an extended period to form the backbone of your colorful flower garden. Then shop from your list. (Your garden center may not organize its offerings in this way—many don’t.) When you get your plants home, be sure to give them appropriate spots and good care so they can realize your vision of a long-blooming, colorful garden.

If I goofed, can I fix it? Yes. You can remove plants and replace them with later bloomers or other colors. You can shift around others. Do your homework on those that bloom at other times, and add plants as you find them. Remember, however, that annuals and perennials fare better when planted in cooler weather. Making additions or changes during the heat of summer is hard on plants.

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