I keep telling you, I'm not a great gardener, I'm a lazy gardener that loves a beautiful garden. So I'm going to share some of my favorite easy tips for a spectacular garden.
Pick flowers that bloom a long time with little attention! Dianthus are some of my favorite for this. They can live in full sun all the way into heavy shade, and literally bloom all year around where I live. It's not at all unusual to see some blossoms with snow on them. You can deadhead them for more blossoms, but I generally wait until they're pretty bloomed out and then give them a good overall "haircut." In another month to six weeks they'll be blooming again. They grow quite thick and can be divided every couple of years to fill out your garden.
Use ground covers to keep down the weeds. This second picture is of my wild mountain strawberries that are the ground cover in my fountain garden. They were volunteers that got started about when I moved here and have now crowded out most of the weeds in this garden. They have hot pink flowers and the tiniest, tastiest berries. I choose ground covers that grow easily, bloom (if you don't flower you have no place in my garden!!!) and aren't overly invasive. Be careful not to select something like vinca for a garden, as it will take over, climbing over the top of your other plants.
Plant layers of bulbs that bloom at different times. This third picture is of one of my front raised beds. There are bulbs that bloom from the very first of spring all the way into the summer planted here. The first are the tulips and anenomes (almost bloomed out now) then the blue japanese iris, followed now by the yellow japanese iris and then there are miniature gladiolas that bloom for a couple of months finished up by the "naked ladies" or "magic lilies" that will appear in the heat of the summer. You have to be careful to remember where the bulbs are when planting your summer perrenials in the same space. Once they begin to spread and naturalize, if you dig into a cluster of bulbs or corms, just replant them and they'll grow just fine! I just bought some Astilbe and some other summer bulbs to plant in this garden for middle to late summer color when this particular bed is pretty bloomed out.
Spend your money on perrenials that will come back year after year rather than annuals that last only one season. Pay attention to perrenials that self-sow or grow quickly and can be divided such as day lilies or purple or white cone flower. When you have an acre in gardens, these plants are the only way you can afford to be lush!
Roses aren't as hard to grow as you think. I love old-fashioned roses with lots of fragrance and full blooms. Two Mother's Days ago, my husband bought me 7 David Austin roses, the four you see in my front fountain garden and 3 in the back. They are disease resistant, have lush foliage when they aren't blooming and have magnificent blossoms that are great for cutting and giving away! The easiest way to grow roses is to buy a timed release fertilizer so you don't forget to feed them. They're heavy feeders if you want great blooms. Water them deeply (don't sprinkle from the top). Cut off the spent blooms just above a 5 leaf cluster and then cut them back 1/3 at the appropriate time for your region.
Gather seeds where ever you go and give them a try in your garden. I carry snack sized ziploc bags and a sharpie marker in my purse and when I see something I like that has gone to seed I gather some of them, mark the flower name on the bag and take them home to give them a try. Be sure and ask permission if you're gathering from someone's garden, but most gardener's love to share! My Nanny used to say "Stolen cuttings grow best!" and would march right up into someone's yard whip out her scissors and take a cutting while I stood mortified watching her!
If you have a bad habit of leaving your water on too long, like I do, I found a wonderful new gadget that stops that from ever happening again. I bought a water shut off timer valve that simply screws on to the faucet bib and you turn the timer for how long you want to water and walk away. $15.88 at Home Depot will save me a lot more than that in the eletricity to run my well!
Lastly, I had to share this picture I took of the hummingbirds taking a bath in my fountain this morning. The one hummingbird that is bathing in the top of the fountain was there for a long time and the second hummingbird was getting irritated at having to stand in line!
Have a great day in the garden!
Audrey Jeanne Roberts