|By Dave Heinen of Heinen Landscape & Irrigation
Kansas City Gardener
March provides the best opportunity to order the annuals you want to have ready for installation this spring. How do you know what you want or need? Ask yourself a few simple questions and consider a few tried and true suggestions. Before long, you’ll have your order ready, ensuring the best pick of plants you’ll want when it’s time to create a beautiful display.
Look at your canvas. Does the sun bake your yard or do you have problems with too much shade? Notice windy, dry or even wet boggy areas. Do you need to add soil amendments before planting? The microclimate your plants will grow in will help you narrow the options of the types of annuals you can use as you begin to “paint” your garden picture.
Select Theme and Color
Decide the theme of your artwork and the colors you will use in your palette. Are you looking to brighten a dark corner of your garden? Do you want to help cool a hot sitting garden? Do you want to add depth to a yard or draw it in closer as you look out a picture window? Choosing the right plant sizes, colors and varieties can perform all of these effects to your delight.
To make a stronger impact in the garden, think about using complimentary colors when deciding which flowers to plant. This website address shows a color wheel and the differences between simple harmony adjacent colors with little contrast compared to simple complementary colors with strong contrast. In addition, you can browse samples of 2-color, 3-color, 4-color, 5-color and 6-color harmony. Using a web resource to view color options can help you make color choices and gives professionals a place to start when ordering the color varieties of plants you want. Also, if your theme calls for the use of the color blue, remember to create a nice solid backdrop for these plants to help show them off, as the eye has trouble focusing on blue in an array of color.
Use plants of different heights to provide a layering affect in the garden. Depending on the size of the plants you install (2 1/4″ cell, 4″ pot, 6″ pot), use caution when installing, as it is very easy to over plant. Most people tend to install more flowers when they use smaller plants because they want to see faster results. Remember though, if you don’t give the flowers enough room to reach their intended size, they have a tendency to get leggy and not look as healthy as properly spaced flowers.
You also can select plants to serve other purposes than just garden fillers. Some plants could be herbs for cooking or scented geraniums as mosquito repellent.
Perhaps you have some old pottery, baskets, mailboxes, or even a watering pail you adore. Using annuals to fill these containers will add eye-catching flare, and you can recycle some of your favorite objects. When planting flowerpots use accent foliage plants such as tropical hibiscus, caladiums or elephant ears. Think about planting smaller plants of different varieties and shades together in a pot rather than using just one large plant. Don’t forget to add trailing vines to soften the edge of the pot.
After you make these decisions, write down your ideas and begin your hunt for the plants you want. You can use a landscape designer to help put your thoughts into action. The designer can help you select plantings and arrangements. They also have access to a wide variety of wholesale growers who often have more selection than your local garden center. Either way, you’ll want to take action and start early to find the best size and selection.
We all strive for the elusive maintenance-free garden, however every garden will require some upkeep to look good all summer long. Maintenance of your flower garden is an important aspect to keep in mind. If you do not have the proper amount of time to spend in your garden, make sure to install low-maintenance plants. You’ll also need to allow time for weeding unwanted undergrowth from your displays. In addition, some plants require more work such as deadheading to remove old flowers, fertilizing, staking and frequent watering. Consider adding special zones to your automatic sprinkler system to provide the water as needed to your annuals or perhaps adjust your current zones to allow for the introduction of these new plantings. If adjusting your sprinkler system sounds great but is beyond the scope of what you can do yourself, call a professional to assist. The art of putting the water where and when you need it will protect your landscape investment and save you time and trouble down the road.
Perhaps you want beautiful annual displays around your home and potted plants on your decks and verandas, but don’t wish to do what’s required. Contact a professional at any stage of your garden planning. Contractors will work with you to meet your needs ranging from preparing your soil (the hard work) to completing the entire process. By leaning on a team of professionals, you will educate them about your yard and the landscape goals you have in mind. In return, they can come to your aid when you need to spruce up your yard just before a party or when you take a summer vacation or an extended trip and need daily or weekly service. By developing a relationship with a professional you trust, you will meet your landscape goals over the long run and avoid possible mistakes in layout design or plant selections.