Gardening for longevity
By Carole McCray
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Choosing landscapes with quality features (patios, decks and fences) and plantings with ongoing interest and blooms makes complete sense for building long-lived gardens. Planting in mind with plants counted on to perform over a long time costs the owner and our planet less in the long run. Here are steps to achieve such a garden.
Step 1: Do a little planning. Whether you are tackling your garden from scratch or doing a garden refresh, take stock of where things could go. Make a basic plan on paper for your area. Then lay tracing paper over the top, and sketch ideas in pencil starting with the functional stuff like paths, patios, deck and driveways. Once finished, start on the garden beds. Looking out from your living areas or walking up to your front door, decide where the best views are of your garden.
Step 2: Get the hard stuff sorted. List any hard landscaping to be done - decking and fencing. Once hard landscaping is done, then bring in the living part of the landscape - the plants.
Step 3: Choose your favorites. Stick to proven performers so what you plant will keep providing joy year after year without being demanding. Use plants that flower for weeks and weeks on end. Then the garden will look lovely through spring, summer and into fall. To make it look good, there is the "white-to-make-it-right" trick: either plant all white flowering plants, or add white flowering plants in with whatever plants you put together.
Step 4: Take a look at these: For easy-to-grow and long-lived plants, roses are high on the list for many gardeners. Flower Carpet roses are a great choice because they are easy to maintain; they cover themselves in masses of blooms, and there are loads of color options. They work in zones 5-11. Salvia (Salvia spp. thrives in zones 5-11 and is a lovely companion plant with the Flower Carpets.) Salvias are easy to grow and throw off spires of flowers all summer long in a range of colors from soft pink and blues to deep purple. Warm-climate gardeners can add African daisies Osteospermum to borders and beds. They are a brilliant classic daisy accent and offer a blanket of different colored daisy flowers for weeks. Colder climate gardeners will appreciate Volcano Phlox for non-stop color in zones 4-10. Volcano Phlox is available in a range of colors from soft to bold and bloom from mid-summer to early autumn, and as a bonus, are particularly attractive to butterflies.
Step 5: Vary texture in the garden. Adding texture to the garden is another way to keep the garden going. Plant strappy foliage into the mix with Storm Agapanthus, best in zones 8-11. The leaves are more refined than traditional agapanthus, and they will grow to sizable clumps with bucket-loads of flowers held high for many weeks over summer. Sedums are gorgeous additions with color and texture. They thrive in almost every climate condition. Hardy to zones 7-11, Canna Tropicanna's bright tangerine flowers linger for months over striped broad leaves. When the sun shines through its strappy, bold-textured leaves, Canna Tropicanna is fully appreciated.
Choose plants to be counted on for dependability and your garden will reward you for years of enjoyment.
Carole McCray resides in Cape May, New Jersey and is an award-winning garden writer who has been writing a monthly garden column, The Potting Shed, for regional newspapers for nearly 20 years.