Many people dream of owning a garden full of beautifully colored and fragrant flowers. It would be ideal if a gardener could scratch out a patch of soil, toss some seeds on it, cover them up, water them then sit back and watch while they turned into glorious blossoms. However, having a truly beautiful garden takes a bit more work. Here are five things to keep in mind when planting flowers:
1. The Climate
Climate describes the long term weather patterns of an area. The area can be large as a region of a country or as small as a garden. The factors to consider are the:
A gardener can discover something of the climate in their area when they look on a hardiness zone map. Though these maps don’t give much information about how much sun, wind or rain an area gets, they do tell a potential gardener the average minimum temperature of their area. The Department of Agriculture divides the United States into at least 11 hardiness zones. This lets a gardener know the coldest temperatures a plant can tolerate.
Fortunately, plant catalogs, seed packets and the instructions that come with transplants let the gardener know the hardiness zones where the plant can thrive. Most plants do well in more than one hardiness zone. A tough plant such as ansonia can thrive from hardiness zone 3, which is found in upper Maine, to hardiness zone 10, which is found in southern Florida.
The one caveat is that flowers are far more tender than the plants they grow on. A plant may withstand an unusually late frost, but its flowers may be lost.
2. The Soil
Gardening experts claim that nothing is more important for the growth of plants and flowers as well-prepared soil. As there are several types of climate, there are several types of soil, though the main categories are clay, silt and sand. These soils are determined by the size of their particles.
- Clay particles are less than 1/256 millimeters in diameter.
- Silt has particles that are between 1/16 and 1/256 mm in diameter.
- Particles of sand are between 1/16 and 2 mm in diameter. Sand can be very fine, fine, medium, coarse or very coarse. A person can usually feel the grains of sand when they hold it.
It’s unusual for any one soil sample to be all of one texture, but a gardener can tell if a soil is silty or clayey because it is heavy, hard to turn over and sticks to the shovel. These soils have lots of nutrients. but they’re so compact that air and water can’t get to the plant’s roots. Sandy soil is so light and loose that it can’t hold on to water or nutrients and can’t anchor a plant properly.
The best soil for most plants is loam, which is about 20 percent clay and about 40 percent each of sand and silt.
The pH of the soil is also vitally important. Most plants like their soil just a bit acidic. If a gardener doesn’t know the soil’s pH, they can buy a kit at a gardening center that can test it. One interesting thing to know is that pH levels can influence the colors of flowers. Hydrangeas grown in acidic soil produce blue flowers, while hydrangeas grown in alkaline soil produce pink or red flowers.
3. Sun Exposure
Flowers bloom in conditions of full sun to full shade. Some demand one or the other. Others can blossom in bright sunlight to partial shade. The gardener needs to know what sort of sun exposure the property gets at different times of the year.
4. Is the Plant an Annual or a Perennial?
An annual is a plant that blossoms once and dies, while a perennial blossoms its life, which can be surprisingly long in some species. The attraction of annuals for most gardeners is that they tend to have spectacular flowers. If a gardener wants permanence as well as plants that are robust as well as beautiful, they grow a perennial garden, and supplement it with annuals and bulbs.
Designing the garden is a long process but a great deal of fun. Sketching the house and property to scale on a piece of graph paper and depicting which areas get full sun, partial sun or shade, drawing existing plants and outbuildings, noting places that have poor drainage, good views, poor views or no privacy gives the gardener a rough idea of where flowers can be planted to their best advantage. Later, deciding whether a garden is informal or formal and choosing the right plants adds to the pleasure.
After this comes the hard work.
Taking these five things into account well before the first bit of soil is even turned over goes a long way in creating a memorable, beautiful and long-lasting garden.