22 May 2009

Theme Gardens Can Be Easy to Do

A drive around Muskogee to all the places that sell plants could make a person think that Muskogee is a gardener’s city. And, now that the night temperatures are consistently above 50-degrees and the spring rain has slowed its pace, the weather is just right for planting.

What you put on your shopping list depends on what you already have and the feeling you want to create. You may prefer a traditional, tropical or Tuscany style garden. If you aren’t sure, drive through some neighborhoods with a camera handy. Take photos of desirable landscapes that have the same sun position as yours.

Here are some ideas based on what was available this week at Muskogee stores, garden centers and at the Farmer’s Market.

A traditional home has shrubs and trees in place to work with. Woody plants provide basic structure for the garden; their roots, size and shade dictate what can be added. To add softness to an area around shrubs and trees, use a garden hose to shape a circle or a series of curves around the space available. Allow room for the usual foot traffic. Mark the flowerbed shape with flour.

Consider adding a bed of plants under a tree and in front of a row of shrubs. For south or west facing areas, select plants that thrive in the heat such as Gerbera Daisy, African daisy, Ice Plant, Purslane, Verbena, Pentas, Sedums or Million Bells. For a shady spot, use Impatiens, ferns and Coral Bells.

If you have room to add a small, colorful tree, consider a Purple Leaf Plum Tree with a bed of silvery Dusty Miller or Hostas underneath.

Along the border of a fenced back yard, sunlight can be in short supply. A small shade tree a few feet away from the corner will grow into the sun. Easygoing plants that would thrive under a young tree include: Tickseed, Petunia, Basil, Rosemary, Salvias, Vinca, Marigold, Sweet Potato Vine, and Rudbeckia.

If a trip to Tuscany is on your wish list, create a Mediterranean look using plants that can take our weather: Put in a row of three Sky Pencil Holly, some Knockout roses or Oleanders. Add a birdbath or fountain, and blue pots. If you have room, add fruiting plants such as grapes on an arbor, a cherry or fig tree, and pots of rosemary and dark red basil. Duplicate a Dianthus garden in Tuscany with clove scented pinks.

Would you prefer to relax and entertain in a tropical setting? You are in luck. The big box and hardware stores have colorful lawn chairs, fire pits, hammocks, Tiki lights, swings and picnic tables.

Tropical plants are dramatic with large leaves and bright colors. Consider Mandevilla, Hibiscus, Elephant Ears, Texas Five Star Hibiscus (Swamp Hibiscus at the Farmer’s Market), Allamanda, Alternathera (Joseph’s Coat), Mallow (English Hibiscus at the Farmer’s Market), Caladiums, Jasmine, Coleus, and Hardy Palms.

Or, plant seeds of Morning Glory, Scarlet Runner or Cypress vine along a fence. In flowerbeds plant seeds of Amaranth, Zinnia, Marigold, Sunflowers, Calendula, Periwinkle, Gourds, Four O’clock, Cosmos, Nigella Love-In-A-Mist, Cleome and herbs. Renee’s Seeds are available at The Gift Shop at Honor Heights Park.

For the best luck, improve the soil before planting. Dig in compost or potting soil to improve the drainage plus fertilizer or composted manure.

New plants will need water or rain almost every day for a week or until their pot-shaped roots move into the soil. Seeds must be watered at least once a day until they sprout.

Many plants look better if you pinch them back and remove their spent flowers, while others are meant to trail. Read the tag or seed packet for success tips.

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