Creating an Exceptional Mother’s Day Gift

04/25/2014 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Flowers, In the Garden, Plant Care, Plant of the Week, Uncategorized

flower bedFlowers are a traditional part of every Mother’s Day celebration, and with that special occasion just two weeks away I couldn’t resist a column about flowers.  However, instead of a bouquet of her favorite blooms or a blossom-covered plant, I’m offering a gift suggestion on a grander scale. Why not give her a bed full of colorful flowers that will last all season long?

Here is the big gift idea:  In the next couple of weeks select a place in Mom’s yard for a flower bed, then prepare the soil, and set up a source of irrigation. This idea is adaptable to container gardens, raised beds, or a small plot by the front door.  On the big day give her a gift card to her favorite garden center, explaining that her flowerbed is laid out and ready for planting.  All she has to do is select the flowers she wants to plant.  Whether or not she’s a gardener, if you know she loves flowers, just watch her eyes light up! If this idea appeals to you and you think it will please your mother, just use the following guidelines to create a successful flowering gift.

The first planning step is to take a stroll through Mom’s landscape to find a suitable location for a flowerbed. Get a feeling for the shape and size of the yard where you’ll be putting the bed. Take note of available light, nearby structures, the location of any underground utility lines, and the nearest water source.  Remember, flowers hold their blooms longer in an east- or west-facing garden.

Use a garden hose, spray paint, or my favorite, baking flour to mark out the potential shape of the new flowerbed. When building a raised bed, determine the type and amount of edging material.  Once you’ve decided on the location, type, and shape of the bed, you are ready to prepare the soil.

Most mountain soils are a horrible mixture of clay and rocks. Consequently, the bulk of your garden dollars, and energy will be spent prepping the soil. It is difficult to get enough composted mulch into a new garden plot, but a 2-3 inch layer turned to one shovel’s depth is a good start.

While turning the soil for this new bed, work in three more amendments in addition to the mulch. Use my specially designed ‘All Purpose Plant Food’, some super phosphate, and ‘Soil Activator’ to really give new plants a good start. The food will bulk up the plants, super phosphate will increase blossom size and fragrance, and ‘Soil Activator’ ensures extensive root development.

Aqua Boost main labelFor really hard soil consider incorporating ‘Aqua Boost Crystals’.  These super absorbent polymer crystals swell as they load up with water, which keeps plants moist through the heat of summer.  As they release moisture back to your flowers they create air pockets that help your plants’ roots to breathe and root deeply.  A few of these crystals, while substantially increasing a plant’s root mass, also can cut water consumption by 50%.

If the soil in your potential garden is just too hard to dig, consider using raised beds.  In many mountain gardens a raised bed is aesthetically appealing and makes for greater ease in planting, weeding, and tending. For proper root development raised beds should accommodate a soil depth of at least one foot.

Now the fun begins! Visit the garden center with Mom and help her put together just the right flower colors and textures for a flower garden that will bloom throughout the year. Choose plants that are healthy and green. Don’t choose plants with fading blooms or browning leaves, and when possible, select plants with flower buds still showing. Perennials need to be at least two years old before they bloom, so try to purchase mature plants of these varieties.

With plants in hand, get out your shovel and hand trowels, and head for the garden site.  Before you dig, place each plant on the garden’s surface where it might be planted; move the plants around until Mom says each one looks its best.  Once placement is decided, you’re ready to plant.

Once planted, mulch your flowerbed with shredded bark, wood chips, or pine needles. Mulch keeps down weeds and creates an attractive, finished look.  Also, as it breaks down it delivers additional organic nutrients into the soil.

Water requirements vary for every plant, but generally expect to water a couple of times a week.  No more if you decided to use the ‘Aqua Boost Crystals’.  If you’ve created a rock garden, or planted extremely drought hardy flowers you may need to water only once a week until the plants are established and then rarely after the first growing season.

Whether you deliver this gift alone or with the help of siblings, savor your mother’s enjoyment in the beautiful flowerbed created just for her.  Now, take a look at your thumbs; they probably have turned a shade greener from having created this floral gift of love.

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San Adreas StrawberryPlant of the week is the San Andreas Strawberry, the hottest new ornamental you can eat. With spring blooms of white, pink, and red on every plant all at the same time, it’s a new star for patio containers and an edible complement to flowerbeds! With each flower a big, red, juicy, sweet berry is formed, while the large, dark, neatly pleated leaves remain constantly attractive.  This prolific berry needs no coddling or fancy treatment to reach its full potential. Expect strawberries so delicious and pretty they will be the talking point of the whole garden.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at