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Spring Gardening With Perennials, Annuals And Bulb...
Spring Gardening With Perennials, Annuals And Bulb...: Horticultural specialist Mitch Baker demonstrates techniques designed to help get the garden off to a good start and evaluate any over-wintering issues.
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Perennials To Pick

These varieties are good bets for a cutting garden, says Durie. (Just be sure they grow well in your zone).

• Yarrow
• Lily of The Nile
• Agapanthus
• Blue Star Flower
• Astilbe
• Bush Lily
• Delphinium
• Bleeding Heart
• Foxglove
• Solomon’s Seal
• Chinese Fairy Bells
• Coneflower
• Daylily
• Iris
• Yellow Flag
• Peony
• Phlox
• Daisy
• Black Eyed Susan
• Goldenrod
• Lamb’s Ear
• Calla Lily
• Go wild!


Whether you’re a master gardener or can barely maintain a windowsill geranium, every spring is a new chance to grow. We’ve raked in a crop of expert ideas for a 2012 garden to live in, not just look at.

Orchestrate a cutting garden

Nothing brightens your home like a vase of fresh-cut flowers. Except maybe knowing you’ve grown those blooms yourself.

First, find a sunny patch of yard. Select perennials (find a list here) and annuals, especially those with strong, tall stems. “Before you plant flowers, look to see what part of the season they bloom. Choose some that bloom earlier and some later,” says landscaper Chris Lambton, who hosts HGTV’s Going Yard. “You don’t want to have everything bloom in July.”

Consider growing some flowers from seed, says Sonia Uyterhoeven of the New York Botanical Garden: “You’ll have more choices, and it’s inexpensive.” Because annuals grow very quickly, feed them with rich soil with compost or organic fertilizer, she advises.

Trees also provide beautiful blossoms, says Jamie Durie, horticulturalist and host of The Outdoor Room on HGTV . Magnolias, dogwood and Japanese maples such as sangu kaku can add color to arrangements into the fall, as can ferns and grasses.

Be sure to plot out a garden large enough so when it’s time to snip, you can cut a few flowers from each plant, instead of denuding one. Uyterhoeven suggests gathering blooms in the morning; as they are cut, put them in a bucket of water.

Veggies are beautiful

Free your vegetables from their typical patch. These days, gardeners are mixing their edible plants among their ornamental ones. The wonderful result: “You get two for one: a garden that’s beautiful and edible,” says Ivette Soler, author of The Edible Front Yard.

Start by layering edible plants into your existing garden, she says. Sow a row of colorful lettuces as a border, or make it strawberry plants. Herbs such as basil, chili, rosemary and marjoram flourish in almost any climate. Blueberry bushes, artichokes, mustard greens, beans, citrus trees and leeks are lovely to look at and delicious to eat. One advantage to combining your gardens: “You won’t have any holes in your garden when harvesting because the ornamental plants give it a backbone,” Soler says.

That said, if you already have a vegetable patch, give it some oomph by adding flowers to it. “Instead of straight rows, I plant my garden in a nice design, filling it with flowers and herbs,” Uyteroeven says.

Go wild! Go native!

Creating a native wildlife haven doesn’t mean ripping out your lawn. It’s “trying to support all the components of the food web,” says Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home.

Gardens that support wildlife such as insects, rodents, frogs, lizards and birds can be win-win for animals and humans. “We’re bombarded by technology,” Uyterhoeven says. “We’re missing out on the natural piece of life.”

The key: Use native plants to meet animals’ needs. “They need sunshine, so try to keep nice open areas and put plants in sunny spots,” Uyterhoeven advises.

Shelter? Cluster trees and large shrubs in layers, for nesting and hiding. Water? “An area of your yard that puddles up is perfect for birds and butterflies,” she says. The best part? You don’t clean up so much. “Leaf litter is perfect for insects. Nature doesn’t have to be immaculate.”

Sorry, uninvited deer or rabbits are hard to ward off. “Deer tend to stay away from things highly scented or fuzzy,” Soler says. But in the end, you’re going to lose some plants.”

Vertical planters are looking up

A big trend is vertical gardening, in which planters hang on retaining walls, fences, terraces and even indoor walls. They hold 4, 8, 10 or 12 plants per panel; they cost $25 to $100. Many have water reservoirs or use fibrous mats to retain moisture. (Find brands such as Florafelt or GoVert by BrightGreen online or at garden centers.)

Despite their moisture mechanisms, you’ll need to water often, says Bill McLaughlin, curator of plants at the U.S. Botanic Garden. “Air circulating around them can cause them to dry out, so be sure to mix a wetting agent into your soil or look for potting mixes that meter water out over longer periods,” he says.

When selecting plants, opt for varieties that have lateral foliage or spill over the edge of the pot, Durie suggests. Adds McLaughlin: “Consider plants that are known to tolerate swings of moisture, like herbs. Succulent plants and smaller vegetables, like peppers, work well, too. Just plant them on the lower levels, so you can pick them.”

Tap into apps for digital green thumbs

Your best resource may remain a trusted expert from your local garden center, but apps for your phone or tablet also can provide crucial information. Here’s the top of the crop:

Field guides from Audubon. From trees to wildflowers, birds to butterflies, ladybugs to spiders, there’s an app for it. ($9.99 and up)

Leafsnap. This app — developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institution — can identify trees by a photograph of their leaves. (Free)

Garden Design With Jamie Durie. Use its Plant Finder database to help plot your garden, its videos and photos to inspire you, and hints from Durie to make your plan come to life. ($2.99)

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