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In Barb's Garden

...getting started - perennials gardens
by Barb Foster
by Barb Foster


Inspired to nuture, Barb Foster took up gardening over a decade ago. She has a particular passion for this areas hardy perennials.

Barb collects her own seeds, grows seedlings in a greenhouse and has 500 sq ft of growing beds plus numerous perennial flower beds in her Zone 1b garden in Chetwynd, B.C.

Barb writes weekly for the Chetwynd Echo.

June 8, 2008

Getting started with a perennial garden.

Growing any garden starts with the soil. Remove the turf and unwanted plant materials from the area. Determine the soil conditions by digging a test hole about 18 inches deep. Fill the test hole with water to see if it drains away. If it is very slow draining you might consider building a raised garden bed. If there is little or no rich black loam you may need to add top soil. Turn the soil with a spade or tiller to a depth of 15 to 18 inches. Add compost, peat moss, and aged horse manure and turn it into the soil. You can do this with a large garden or just a two foot planting hole.

Carefully choose your plants, see that the plants are appropriate for the climate zone (Chetwynd is in zone 1b, however in my experience you can expect plants rated zones 1,2,or 3, to grow well here).

Determine the amount of light and water available in your garden site, choose plants that are appropriate for the conditions available in your garden site.

Suggested perennial plants for water economy or in dry shade areas include Alchemilla(Lady's Mantle), Aegopodium(Goutweed or Snow on the Mountain), Convallaria majalis (Lily-of-the-Valley), Bergenia ( Elephants Ears), Pulmonaria saccharata (Lungwort or Bethlehem Sage).

For the very hot,dry spots try or to save water try Gypsophila (Baby's Breath),Gaillardia ( Blanket Flower),Festuca (Blue fescue), Echinacea (Cone Flower), Centaurea Montana (Cornflower), Hemerocallis (Daylily), Echinops(Globe Thistle), Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks),Potentilla/Cinquefoil, Cerastium (Snow -in-Summer),Salvia nemorosa (Blue Sage), Euphorbia (Cushion Spurge),Sedium/Stonecrop, Achillea (Yarrow).

If your garden is in full sun but has too much moisture in the soil you could try to grow Siberian Iris, Alcea rosea (Hollyhock), Myosotis (Forget-me-not), Trollius (Globeflower), Aconitum(Monkshood), Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox).

These are suggestions for water saving garden sites. Some of these and most other perennial plants will grow well in full sun to partial shade in well drained average garden sites, if provided with a reasonably amount of water.

All plants grown indoors or in a greenhouse will need to be hardened off before planting out in the garden. Gradually expose the plants to a few more hours outdoors each day over a period of a few weeks. Start in sheltered shade at temperatures above 10 degrees C., gradually expose them to the conditions they will experience after planting.

Plant most perennials at the same depth as grown, or according to package instructions. Add a handful of bonemeal to the planting hole. Water the plant in well so that no air pockets are left in the soil around the roots, keep the plant well watered for a few weeks after planting.

Potted perennial plants can be planted anytime from early spring to early fall.

Mulch the garden to help retain moisture, and keep weed seeds from germinating.

Unless you want the seed from some of your perennial plants, the spent flower heads can be removed (deadheading), this puts more energy back into root growth.

Fertilize with 10-10-10 or alfalfa 'rabbit food' pellets every three weeks until the end of July.

Stake tall plants to avoid wind damage and support heavy blooms.

Water well just before the ground freezes in fall.

Winter protect new plants for their first winter. After the ground is frozen a few inches deep, cover the plant with evergreen boughs or loose straw, be sure to remove the winter mulch before spring growth begins or it may rot out the crowns of the plants..

For aesthetic appeal try to place taller plants to the back or centre of your flower bed. Plant in groupings of odd numbers. Inter plant for seasonal blooms i.e. Daffodil or Tulip bulbs, or Doronicum (Leopards Bane) with a ground cover of Myosotis (Forget-me-not) or Arabis (Rockcress) for early spring; followed by the summer bloom of which you have the widest choice; then perhaps a late bloom of Anthemis (Golden Marguerite), Aconitum (Monkshood), Seduim (Stone Crop) 'Autumn Joy', or Achillea(Yarrow).

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