Story by Andrea Bruce-Niederer, Photos by Amanda Bruce-Niederer
After a long winter, the incredible beauty of spring has a way of stimulating our senses and propelling us into the garden. However, with so many gardening possibilities in our sunny climate (USDA plant hardiness, zone 6), it is easy to go from motivated to overwhelmed. Instead, just keep calm and plant something!
Whether you are creating your first garden or expanding your growing talents, the best way to start is to prioritize your plans. This might sound difficult when thinking of the entire outdoor space but here are some suggestions that can help. First, grow what you love! Local nurseries are stocked this time of year and the nighttime temps are warm enough for tender or even tropical plants, so you will have a great selection to choose from. However, don’t let the grand mass of plants available bamboozle you into buying more than you can handle. This brings us to the second tip, start small you can always add more. Third, be realistic about the time you have available to care for your garden. Plants, whether edibles or ornamentals, do take a little time to maintain, so keeping the garden simple will make sure it doesn’t go from enjoyment to stress.
Want more ideas to channel your garden fever? Seneca Hull, President of Franz Witte, speaks to us about new trends in gardening that are ideal for beginning gardeners. “More and more people are decorating their outdoor spaces, creating lovely, restful spots, be it on a patio, porch, entry, or within the front, side, or back yard,” Hull said. “Container gardening has really increased due to this trend and the best selection of pottery in different colors, shapes, and sizes can be found now. Planting a container is quick and easy and definitely a great way to add something delightful to any area of your home. This year, we are carrying pots that are made to “snap on” a rail or fence, providing yet another way people can add plant beauty to their living space.”
For folks just giving gardening a try, raised beds are a great option,” says Kecia Carlson of Madeline George Design Nursery. “Soil issues are less challenging since you are starting with prepared and well draining soils and you can try your hand at everything from annuals, edibles, herbs, perennials, dwarf flowering shrubs, and even succulents in this form of gardening. Watering is important in any method of growing and in our climate, watering needs change due to our range of temperatures. Get a bit of coaching from a local nursery to set you on the right path and enjoy the experience of growing something beautiful!
Indeed, container gardening is a great starting place! There are lots of plants suitable for containers and no hard rules when it comes to design. Depending on preferences, you can create something based purely on luscious color or texture, or perhaps instead, a pot full of edibles. You really can’t beat an heirloom tomato salad dressed with fresh herbs, eaten the same day the goodies are picked! Or, mixed veggies, herbs, and flowers create a multi-functional container!
Kathy Ellensohn, owner of Old Valley Farms agrees, “Gardening should be about fun. If something strikes your fancy, give it a go! We at Old Valley are very good counselors to get you off to the right start.” Ellensohn points to another growing trend and that has more emphasis being placed on the attractiveness of a plant’s foliage. A beautiful leaf pattern or unexpected color increases the plant’s appeal throughout the year, even when it is out of bloom. New plant introductions are being bred to offer more interesting foliage attributes, such as variegated leaves and unusual colors, moving beyond that of green.
“Selecting a spring or summer flowering shrub with an exceptional leaf that changes color in fall is a great way to appease your current mood and have lasting beauty the rest of the season,” Ellensohn said. “Many new shrub varieties have been bred to stay compact and do not require as much pruning as older varieties. These selections can be used in small garden spaces and also grow well in containers, for a season or two, and can then be moved to the permanent landscape.”
So go ahead indulge those garden aspirations by digging in and planting something special that can be enjoyed the rest of the season or for years to come. When finished, be sure to spend a few mindful moments each day enjoying the fruits of your labor. Getting a daily dose of vitamin D is not only good for your health but also good for the health of the garden, for observing changes early on is the best way to head off any insect or watering issues before they impact your plants.