Since our Kruse garden is covered by snow and at rest till spring, I will give you my thoughts for my own garden in the coming year.
Many of us during these months are looking at garden catalogues and ordering plants for that wonderful garden we imagine will be ours in the coming summer. But think. Why aren’t garden catalogues sent out in the early fall when we would have more time to order, maybe place an order for gardening friends for Christmas? It’s because in the winter we’re rested from yard work, we are anxious for a flower. We don’t remember the unpruned shrubs, the straggly plants, the failed annuals. We don’t remember that we were too disinterested, tired, busy last August to water or weed. In winter we are at our weakest and the beautiful pictures in the catalogues and the plants soon to appear at the garden centers are luring us.
It’s time to get a grip. Remember last year, the plants we ordered from the catalogues. In spring they seemed to arrive too early, almost all at once, packaged well in tiny containers, very delicate looking, and usually half the size we expected. I planted mine here and there just to get them in the ground before they totally wilted away, having long forgotten where they were to go in that garden of mine.
So now I’ve put away the garden catalogues. I pulled out some great garden books and magazines. My favorite garden magazine is the “English Garden”. It has beautiful pictures of many perennial garden borders that are very doable. To me “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This magazine is one of six garden magazine subscriptions that our garden club buys for our library. Many of the plants featured are very familiar to us. The gardens are planted in a way that I try to emulate, though not often with success. So this year I am not ordering plants now. Instead I have a list of five things that I will do that I know will make gardening less labor intensive for me and give me a fairly presentable garden. These are also the five points that make the gardens in the magazine so lovely.
No. 1 Remove All Debris
All debris should be removed as early as possible in the spring, hopefully in early April before the weeds sprout aggressively. All branches, old flower stalks, etc. should be cut down and raked up.
No. 2 Prune, Tidy, Mulch
Now is the time to look with a critical eye at my garden and be very brutal. I will prune those lopsided bushes, prune low-hanging tree branches that hit me in the head as I walk by. I will dig out those plants that never looked good—that straggly rose, the over-grown perennials, plants that looked messy, collapsed, those that need to be babied (who has the time,) plants that I hoped might recover and miraculously perform? Hope does not spring eternal in the NEAT garden. I will then mulch as much as possible. This part of the early work is the hardest, but done well, brings in later months the most satisfaction—a good appearance, healthy plants, and less weeds.
No.3 Edge the Beds
I will use a shovel to dig out a shallow ditch between the border and the lawn. This will give a very finished appearance. After this chore I will have time for a bit of relaxation because if I do nothing else the garden will already look very fine. It will be neat and tidy.
No. 4 Repetition of Perennials and Shrubs
A great garden will always have a repetition of plants. Look at the beautiful gardens and notice. I like perennials tightly planted so there is little room for weeds. Our gardens are usually not large enough to have too many varieties of plants. A few varieties in groups of three or more, repeated throughout the border work well. Too many varieties end up looking like a miss-mash with no cohesion or a place for the eye to rest. The garden has to flow. The same is true for the shrubs in a border.
No. 5 Buy Plants for the Location
A plant for sun needs sun. A dry location is not swampy after a rain. I probably do not need many new plants if I divide what I have and re-position others into a better location. To get the tightly planted look I will seed annuals directly into the open spaces. I like the annuals weaving in between perennials, providing summer color. Some annuals that do well seeded directly in the soil are zinnia, marigold, larkspur, California poppy, to name a few. I like cosmos between tall grasses.
These five points are my thoughts and plan that I will try to follow in 2016 to make my garden more care-free and looking put-together. My aim is to start early and be done by Memorial Day. I remember my mother on many a Memorial Day looking at the plants that I hadn’t as yet planted, so satisfied that her zinnias and old-fashion petunias were seeded weeks before. She would give me her best gardening advice: “Green is a color” and especially, “LESS IS MORE.”