Grow a Flower Garden This Year

flowers and lettuce
flowers and lettuce

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Northern Gardening with hosts Emma Bradley and Joan Farnam talk to Tom Kasper, Duluth maintenance supervisor and co-host of WDSE's "Great Gardening" show and Paula Sundet Wolf, a former host of Northern Gardening and an exceptional gardener, about growing flowers on the North Shore. Pictured, at left, is a pot of alyssum and lettuce.

Here are some tips on how to begin a flower garden this spring:

• Sketch out your plans for your garden. Make a diagram of the area, including its width and length. This will help you properly place the plants as you choose them.

• See how much light the area receives. Different plants have different light requirements. Choose plants that have the same light requirements to plant in the garden.

• Select plants that have the same water and soil requirements

• Decide if you want to use annuals. Annuals usually grow and bloom for one season and are broken into warm- and cold-season annuals.

• Consider using perennials. Perennials will usually give you several seasons, if not years, of blooms and growth.

• Shrubs will give you color and contrast throughout the seasons.

• Figure out how big each plant is at maturity. This will give you a better idea of how many plants you will require and how far to space them apart.

• Consider the placement of the plants and what look you are trying to achieve. Formal flower gardens will have all the plants lined up in a straight row. Flower gardens with a more natural flow will have the plants unevenly spaced throughout.

• Native flowering plants that grow in your region are a great addition to attract butterflies and for easier maintenance

• Consider using a focal point in your flower garden.

• How much time do you have for maintenance and care?

If you plan on starting with shrubs, here are some suggestions for color in gardens along the lakeshore vs. away from Lake Superior.

Hardy Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) is a carefree shrub that no garden should be without. One of the best native American shrubs, Summersweet has everything. Carefree, with sweet smelling summer blooms of pink, white, or deep-rose, Summersweet is pest and disease free. Beautiful when planted in
mass or as a foundation plant. Prefers slightly acid, sandy soil and full sun, but tolerates clay and dense shade. Late summer/early fall bloom. Zone: 3-9. Height: 4-6 feet.

Autumn Magic Black Chokecherry has glossy dark green foliage with an upright shape. Does well in full sun and partial shade. Fragrant white flowers in spring followed by clusters of large dark purple-black berries that persist through the season. Leaves turn reddish purple in the fall. 3-5’tall and 2-4’ spread. Zone: 3-7

Saskatoon Boxwood is for those folks who really miss having a boxwood in their garden. It has done well for three years, is a slow growing evergreen shrub that is easy to prune and has not been decimated yet by the deer. Zones: 4- 8 It will grow about 2 feet tall and spread 2-3 feet.

Pygmy Peashrub works well for a nice short hedge or backdrop for smaller flowers. It stays a light green and has small yellow flowers in spring. Great for difficult soils and dry areas. Zones: 3 – 7. It grows about 3-feet tall and spreads 4-5 feet.

Tom Thumb Creeping Cotoneaster has shiny miniature leaves and beautiful herringbone branching pattern. Great fall red color it grows 8 – 12 inches tall and spreads out about 4- 6 feet. Nice in dry soils and full sun and works great along the edge of the rock garden. Zones: 4-9.

Twist & Shout Hydrangea has dark green leaves that turn burgundy-red in the fall. Blooms on new and old wood with lacy, deep-pink centers surrounded by pink or blue blossoms. Grows 3-5 feet tall and 3- 4 feet wide. Nice specimen plant. Zones: 4-9.

Other suggestions might include: Dart’s Gold Ninebark, Nugget Ninebark, Rhododendrons, Lilacs, Spireas, Viburnums, etc.

Here are some new Introductions from Bailey’s Seeds to consider

Hydrangea arborescens Bella Anna (‘PIIHA-I’)-- Part of the Endless Summer collection, Bella Anna features large, peppy pink blooms. Harsh winter weather or severe pruning is not a problem for Bella Anna. This hardy, reliable hydrangea keeps blooming from early summer through fall, with minimal care. Grows 3 feet tall and wide. Full sun to partial shade. Zones 3–9.

Rosa Pinktopia (‘BAImas’ )--Pinktopia, an Easy Elegance rose, packs masses of dreamy medium pink blooms against dark green leaves. Pinktopia’s new growth is a stunning red. It makes a great low-maintenance accent plant or
hedge. Recurrent bloom cycle. Grows 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Zones 4–9.

Rosa Sigrid Rose (‘UMNsigrid’) --This Northern Accent beauty boasts enormous clusters of red double blooms. Reaches just over 3 feet with inch-wide double flowers. Everblooming. Zones 4–9.

Physocarpus opulifolius Little Devil (‘Donna May’)--An exciting improvement in ninebark, First Editions Little Devil resists pests and diseases and requires very little maintenance. It keeps its compact shape without pruning, making it great as a background or in a shrub border. Grows up to 4 feet tall and wide. Full sun or part shade. Zones 3–7.

Hydrangea paniculata Tickled Pink (‘HYPMAD II’) --Tickled Pink’s cone-shaped blossoms start out soft white then gradually turn a rosy pink. The extraordinary blooms are loaded with petals that curve, giving Tickled Pink a lacy, flirty look. Grows 4 to 5 feet tall and spreads 5 to 6 feet. Full Sun. Zones 4–8.

Here are some suggestions for Hardy Perennials:

Early summer
• Allium
• Bergenia cordifolia
• Dicentra spectabilis (Bleeding Hearts)
• Ajuga reptans
• Candy Tuft ‘Autumn Snow’
• Aquilegia canadensis
• Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’
• Phlox subulata (Creeping Phlox)
• Daffodils
• Agopodium (Snow on the Mountain)
• Hostas
• Iris cristata (Dwarf Crested Iris)
• Iris siberica (Siberian Iris)
• Polemonium caeruleum (Jacob’s Ladder)
• Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley)
• Pulmonaria ‘Mrs. Moon’ (Lungwort)
• Primrose ‘Primula auricula’
• Cerastium tomentosum (Snow in Summer)
• Trollius europus ‘Superbus’
• Phlox divaricata (Woodland Phlox)

Mid summer
• Allium giganteum
• Mondarda didyma (Bee balm)
• Nepeta ‘Blue Wonder’ (Catmint)
• Heuchera (Coral bells)
• Hemerocallis (Daylilies)
• Delphiniums ‘Magic Fountains’
• Digitalis x mertonensis (Foxglove)
• Hostas
• Lilium cultivars (Asiatic)
• Lilium lancifolium cultivars ( Tiger)
• Peony ‘Festiva Maxima’
• Phlox ‘Miss Lingard’
• Lychnis coronaria (Rose campion)
• Veronica (Speedwells)

Late Summer
• Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’ ‘Rose’
• Moonshine
• Astilbe ‘Superba’, ‘Visions in Pink’ Pumila’
• Aster novae-angliae (New England)
• Aster novi-belgii (New York)
• Rudbeckia
• Coreopsis ‘Sunburst’
• Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ ‘Zagreb’
• Joe Pye Weed Eupatorium maculatum ‘Atropurpureum’
• Oriental Lilies
• Monkshood carmichaeli
• Obedient Plant Physostegia
• Sedum ‘Black Jack’ ‘Autumn Joy’ ‘Purple Emporer’
• Chelone glabra, lyonnii, oblique (Turtleheads)
• Chrysanthemums ‘Betty Lou’ (red) ‘Centerpiece (pink) Clara • • Cutris (pink), Centennial Sun (yellow)
(Peach Centerpiece)
• Plume Poppy ‘Kelway’s Coral Plume’ Macleaya microcarpa

Here are some possible perennial combinations:
Spring: Alchemilla mollis, daffodils, Iris ‘cristata’ and Lysimachia nummularia ‘aurea’ ; Muscari
Summer: Daylily ‘Little Fellow’, ‘Stella’d’Oro’, Black eyed Susan, Echinacea ‘alba’
Summer: Obedient plant’Summer Snow’, Bee Balm ‘Marshall’s Delight’, Daylily ‘Catherine, Woodward’
Fall: Autumn Joy ‘Sedum, Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’ Aster ‘Violet Carpet’

Dividing Perennials – Rule of thumb: Divide fall blooming plantsin the spring and spring blooming plants in the fall.
Iris (6 weeks after blooming); Peonies (late August); Daylilies (after blooming – late August)

Annuals are usually an important part of any flower garden, too.
Cool-season annuals are those that like 70 deg. days and cool nights.
Warm-season annuals are those that like 80 – 90 deg. days and nights in the 60 – 70 deg. range.

Annuals can also be categorized according to their temperature tolerance. They are often categorized as very hardy or hardy, half-hardy, tender and warm-loving.

Very hardy - withstanding temperatures down to 20 deg. F. Bloom early in spring and late in fall during cooler temperatures. Direct seed in cool ground for germination. May retreat Or die-off when temperatures become very hot.
Hardy – withstanding temperatures down to 30 deg.
Half-hardy – tolerate long periods of cold, wet, damp weather but can be damaged by frost. Will usually have earlier and later bloom periods during cooler weather. Can self-seed.
Tender – plant when all danger of frost is over; won’t germinate under 60 deg. and are usually native
to warm tropical regions of the world. Bloom during July & August, don’t usually self-seed. Warm-loving - like 80 degree days.

Combinations of annuals that work well together
• Long bloom period / or bloom periods that complement each other
• Color and contrast of flowers and foliage (repetition)
• Pick up colors of home, deck where you are going to be placing container / window box
• Different heights / styles / textures (repetition)
• Culture conditions are similar – temperature, sun exposure, etc.

Some suggestions for annuals that will re-seed themselves
• Bachelor buttons
• Calendula
• California poppy
• Candytuft
• Cleome
• Cosmos
• Dianthus
• Forget-me-not
• Four-O-Clocks
• Johnny-Jump-Ups
• Larkspur
• Love-in-a Mist
• Moss rose
• Pansies

Some suggestions for biennials or perennials that will re-seed themselves:
• Purple coneflower
• Fig hollyhock
• Poppies
• Black-eyed Susan
• Cardinal flower
• Columbine
• Delphinium
• Foxgloves
• Echinops ritro
• Sea Holly
• Sweet William

Cook County Extension has put together a “Guide to Some Annual Flowers 2010” and is currently working on a new, revised recommended perennial list. Call 387-3015 for more information.

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