One of my favorite hobbies is gardening. It’s a bit of a challenge up here in the north but with some research and trial and error I have learned what works best in my garden.
Gardening is a lot like cooking. Everyone’s tastes are different. I like easy to grow perennials mixed with some spring bulbs and fall mums. I have certain plants that I enjoy and know will do well in which type of soil.
The Sun Loving Garden:
I am fortunate that my new house has LOTS of sunny areas. The front of the house faces south, but is shaded by a huge pine tree (which I would love to cut down some day), which poses a bit of a challenge. The back yard is actually 2 ½ acres of open field…a blank canvas for me to paint my perfect perennial garden.
One of my tall bush favorites is the Limelight Hydrangea. This is actually a sun loving Hydrangea that grows 6-8 feet and gets huge white (almost greenish) clusters of flowers in late summer. In the fall they fade to a pinkish color and are perfect for drying. With lots of sunlight and well-drained soil, all you have to do with these beauties is plant and watch them grow. In spring, once the leaves start, I like to remove the dead wood, but I don’t cut mine way back in the fall like some people do.
Peonies are a beautiful spring flowering plant that comes in lovely shades of red, pink, white and even a yellow. They also love the sun and rich soil. They make great cutting flowers so get a few of them. That way you won’t notice as much when you snip a few for your kitchen table.
Tall phlox is one of my more favorite scented flowers. These are great planted right under a window. They are hardy, easy to keep and come in a variety of colors. Did I mention they smell great! Keep these flowers watered if summers get dry and in the fall cut them back to about an inch. That’s it!
The front garden of my new house is loaded with Iris. The previous owner never tended the garden so the Irises have pretty much taken over. Last fall I divided up some of the bulbs and gave some away to friends and family. I still need to divide the other side of the garden. However, since Irises are sensitive to being divided and will not bloom the following year, I thought it best to alternate my dividing. That way each year I will still have blooms.
The Shade Garden:
Astilbe is one of my favorite shade loving plants. It has soft dark colored fern-like leaves with feathery plumes in lots of pretty colors. They are very hardy and bloom between late spring into summer. You can snip off the dead flowers and enjoy the beautiful leaves well into fall.
Hosta is a popular shade plant with many gardeners. Hosta’s are more famous for their leaves than their flowers. They grow in large clumps with big heart shaped leaves that come in a numerous variety of shades, shapes and colors. In the summer they sprout tall white or lavender funnel shaped flowers, but it is the plant itself that makes the shade garden so vibrant. I like the variegated varieties, but also like a variety in my garden. The best thing about Hostas is that you can divide them. Once they become large, you can dig them up and split them to plant in other areas of your garden. Just make sure there are at least three ‘eyes’ per clump.
Bleeding hearts are an old-time favorite. Soft foliage is brightened by pink and white flowers that look like bleeding hearts. As summer wanes, so does the bleeding heart, so mix these in with your Astilbe and Hosta to prevent bare spots.
Hydrangeas are great because they also come in shade tolerant varieties. We have a compact blue hydrangea in a shady corner at the moment, though I think I want to try and relocate it somewhere a little more visible. Unlike its larger sun loving cousin, Limelight, the smaller varieties will adjust color with the pH of the soil. In acidic soils, the flowers tend to be bluer, in alkaline soils they tend to be pinker. You can change the color of your hydrangea by changing the pH of the soil. How many flowers can do that?
There is so much to gardening and just like cooking, I like to try new things. Each year I add a new plant or color or a whole new garden. I love to mix herbs with perennials and add a touch of color with annuals. Surround your vegetable garden with marigolds to deter deer and rabbits and add color at the same time. Feeling adventurous? Try a water feature. The options are endless and each garden is as personal as the person who tends it.