help me plan this year's garden! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 02-07-2002, 10:36 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm a novice when it comes to gardening--sort of a learn as I go gardener. Two years ago, we bought a house that had been owned by a landscape architect and there is an extensive perennial garden--15 perennial beds (mostly raised beds) and one bed reserved for annuals and vegetables. I'd like to add some more perennial flowers--I'm thinking poppies, columbine, pinks, bee balm, maybe some foxglove. In the past, when I've added new plants, they haven't done well. The Bee Balm I planted last year died. There is a lot of mint that's starting to take over. Some Oriental Poppies that came up our first year here didn't come up this spring. My clematis didn't flower at all last summer--I don't have a clue why. One of my peonies didn't make any flowers either. So, what's the best way to add the flowers I want--start them from seed inside, sow directly into the garden, or buy plants? Last spring, I bought lots of plants at my farmer's market, but they got choked out by the already established plants which were already much taller than the new plants and blocked the sun from getting to the new ones. And why are some of my established plants no longer producing flowers? Any advice would be appreciated. I feel like this garden still belongs to my house's previous owner. I'd like to make it mine.
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#2 of 6 Old 02-08-2002, 01:18 PM
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Much of your post could have been written by me...except that I have always loved to garden and was lucky enough to be raised by my mom, a flower gardening maniac!The previous owners had put alot of work into the landscape, but their taste in plants is quite different from mine. We had to change their very formal beds (lots of boxwoods, roses, azaleas) to the more cottage garden look I love. You will have better luck starting your own new plants if you remove or at least thin out the surrounding plants so they have room to thrive. Proper pruning boosts flowering, there are lots of good books/sites to check out on that for particular plants. Or ask at your nursery. I have very limited luck starting seeds, so always buy established plants. The neighbors thought I was nuts pulling so many established plants out, but I found homes for most of them and I now really feel like the yard is truly ours. I can't wait til spring to get started again! Good luck!
P.S. Bee Balm is wonderful, attracts hummingbirds, and spreads like wildfire if watered a lot. It does need water.
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#3 of 6 Old 02-08-2002, 02:45 PM
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Hi and congratulations on starting your first garden! You are lucky to have so many perrennials. I am fairly new to gardening too and I found that understanding your soil is a big part of it. I live in a different climate/zone than you so I don't know much about growing stuff down there. I would assume that stuff grows really well. Anyway, I second 3boysmom in what she says basically, and I also had trouble starting seeds; it's kind of tricky. My advice to starting gardeners is to not do what I did the first year which was get completely overwhelmed by being over-ambitious; the following two years I composted and mulched a lot and got to know which plants liked the soil acid or alkaline and put on lime or mulch according to how I wanted to adjust it. The other thing I do is grow the easiest plants possible. Herbs are very easy, mostly, and also most of them prefer poorer soil and are very hardy re: watering. I found clematis to be a very easy plant so I don't know what the story is, maybe you just have to wait another year. There are MANY good starting-to-garden books out there.

Watch the mint! It takes over before you know it. If you want some but controlled, dig some up and plant in a house-plant pot and bury it in the ground again, to contain the roots.
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#4 of 6 Old 02-10-2002, 07:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for your responses. I too have bad luck with seeds. But every year when the natural food store puts up their seed display, I throw caution to the wind and buy some. Yesterday I planted peas--a little late. Here in Va, you're supposed to plant peas on Feb. 1st (which is St. Brigid's day) and potatoes on St. Patrick's day.
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#5 of 6 Old 02-10-2002, 07:47 PM
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I am so jealous, you get to plant stuff in Feb, we cant plant anything til after May 24th here, when all risk of frost has passed!

I agree, you need to thin some things out, maybe ammend your soil a bit too, to encourage growth, do you have compost pile?? Last yr I took out out entire front lawn and planted all perrenials, it is beautiful ,and I swear its because of the great dirt I used, it was a triple mix, but sterilized, so no bugs, or disease. I would suggest getting some new dirt and digging it in to your existing beds. I have great luck with certain seeds, but not started in pots, sew directly into the ground, this avoids mold and such. Some real great ones are nasturtiums(although they spread like crazy), cosmos(they look lovely with dill mixed in , very complimentary.

I could go on for days, but I dont want to bore you to tears, plus we live in a totally different growing zone, so I dont know if this will help much!!

Good luck,

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#6 of 6 Old 03-10-2002, 11:46 AM
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i am new to gardening as well and completely overwhelmed by two acres of lovely and diverse land i get to garden on this year. these are some things i learned recently that may or may not help you: some plants are biennial, meaning that they flower one year, go dormant the next, and then flower again the next. so that might be why some plants suddenly aren't flowering. also, perennials in their first year often don't flower. i was about to buy a bunch of perennial seeds the other day when i learned this, and decided to go with starter plants as i really want to have blossoms this spring & summer.

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