You’re looking at your yard. Maybe there’s a spot at the back that needs some love. Or you’ve taken a personal oath to finally get that front walkway looking a little more, well, welcoming this spring. Even experienced gardeners can have a momentary crisis of indecision–”What’s going to grow and not die on me after I’ve spent X number of dollars on plants and X number of hours putting the $%&!!*% things into the ground…”
A wise and very experienced gardener once told me that if you want to know what grows well where, look over your fence. Obvious, perhaps, but immensely practical and therein lies the elegance of it. You don’t need to figure out how much sunlight the area gets or what hardiness zone you’re in. If you want some good bets for a flower bed that lines the east-facing front of your house, for instance, just take a walk up the street and note the plants situated in the exact same area for other homes. Voila!–a hit list of star plants. Mind you, this isn’t a full guarantee of success. Stuff happens. But it certainly gives you a cracking good head start.
Here are some more less-work-more-fun tricks when you’ve just moved into a new place or need to overhaul a part of your old garden.
Take a second look before you chop. Although it’s tempting to tear everything out of an area to start with a clean slate, so to speak, you’ll save time and money if you give some of those larger, well-established plants a second chance–even if they’re an eyesore right now. Prune a scraggly bush back. Divide up a choked patch of hostas. Cut some of those lower branches off the tree trunk to open up the space. You’ll be giving yourself a head start with– let’s face it–plants that have already proven themselves capable of growing in that area.
Embrace the holes in your beds. If you’ve got a plant that didn’t make it through our latest brutal winter, think about the gaping hole that’s left after you’ve removed the victim as an opportunity to do less. Much less. In fact, consider leaving the space empty. The plants in the immediate vicinity might appreciate a little more elbow room. But if the vacant space is driving you crazy, park a decorative plant container there. This is how magazine stylists deal with an unsightly hole when they’re tweaking a garden to get it looking perfect for a photograph. You can even plop a different pot of flowers into the container each season for extra interest.
Multi-purpose your mulch. Dark bark chips finish off a bed nicely while keeping moisture in the soil and weeds at bay. But mulch can do so much more.
1. If you’ve got an area that resists any kind of planting (under a large fir tree for instance), stopping fighting it, spread a bunch of mulch over the offending area, and call it a day.
2. Got a huge gap in a flower bed? Spread the mulch and then point out what a nice touch of negative space you’ve created. People will be impressed.
3. If you want to make a path but don’t have the time/money to spend on laying paving stones or such, just clear the pathway of grass, plants and stones, rake it smooth and cover it with mulch. You’ve got a nice, evenly coloured woodland-y path that you can upgrade later when you’ve got more money and time to commit to it.
Photo courtesy of domdeen/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.