You can picture it in your mind’s eye: lush expanses of colorful flowers brightening you backyard from spring through summer. It all sounds wonderfully inviting. For the novice gardener, it also may seem overwhelming. The good news is that you don’t have to start big to have a pleasing patch of color outside your window. It’s okay, and advisable, to start small and get your feet wet—or in this case, your hands dirty. Just let your gardening knowledge grow along with your garden, expanding your selection of flowers a little each year.
So where do you begin? What things are important to consider as you plan your flower garden? Laura Mazur, a Kent master gardener and landscape designer, who also likes to restore old houses, offers some guidance. An initial consideration is choosing annuals or perennials or a combination of the two. While perennials for the most part take care of themselves season after season, annuals, as the name suggests, must be planted anew each spring. Before you opt only for perennials because they don’t require replanting, consider the bloom time for both types of plants, says Mazur. “Annuals will last through autumn,” says Mazur, adding, “Perennials have a bloom time of two to six weeks. For maximum color throughout the season, it’s a good idea to have a mixture of annuals and perennials because all types of flowers don’t start and stop blooming at the same time.” For color options, Mazur suggests simply choosing colors that you like. “For annuals,” says Mazur, “choose colors that you are particularly fond of and would enjoy seeing year after year. For annuals, choose colors that suit your mood now, in the shorter term.” In her own garden, Mazur uses a combination of annuals such as petunias (bright, funnel-shaped flowers), marigolds and zinnias (both part of the daisy family) and perennials such as day lilies, phlox (clusters of colorful scented flowers) and columbine (part of the buttercup family).
To better ensure success, Mazur recommends choosing flowers that are easy to grow, such as drought-tolerant zinnias. By contrast, says Mazur, marigolds tend to need more water and are less able to withstand dry conditions. “When it comes to flower care,” says Mazur, “always pay close attention to the requirements printed on the tag that comes with the plant, and follow the directions given. If you ignore those instructions, your plants might survive, but they won’t thrive.” To supplement natural rainfall, Mazur recommends watering deep less often rather than watering shallow more often. Good care of flowers, she adds, also includes the appropriate use of mulch to keep weeds at bay, maintain an even soil temperature and keep moisture at a healthy level. But don’t overdo the mulch, says Mazur, noting that one to two inches of hardwood bark mulch is sufficient.
Mazur’s last bit of advice for the novice flower gardener is simple: Have fun! And enjoy the beauty of your small patch of colorful flowers.
To see how all of these tips and more can fit together for an eye-pleasing view, Mazur offers tours of her garden by appointment. She can be reached at 330-678-8760.