Next weekend is Mother’s Day. For most moms you just can’t go wrong by honoring her with a bouquet of her favorite flowers; it’s a well-loved, long-standing tradition. However, for a gift of longer lasting sentiment, give your mother a gift card promising a flowerbed in her yard. Part of the gift is helping her select the flowers, and then helping her to plant them. She is bound to take pride and pleasure in a gift that blooms throughout the season, all the while reminding her of you and the fun you shared while completing the project. If this gift idea appeals to you, just use the following guidelines to create a successful flowerbed in our mountain soils.
The first planning step is to take a stroll through the landscape to find a suitable location. Get a feel 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 flour to mark out the potential shape of the new flowerbed. If 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 will be spent on 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 a good 7-4-4 ‘All Purpose Plant Food’, bone meal, and ‘Soil Activator’ to really get those plants growing. The food will bulk up the plants, bone meal increases blossom size and fragrance, and ‘Soil Activator’ ensures a better root development of all new plants. For really hard soil consider adding the largest bag of ‘Perlite’ you can find. Perlite is the name of the white bits you find in a good potting soil, but it also works to improve flower beds.
If the soil in your potential garden is really bad, 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.
Then the fun begins! Visit your local garden center with Mom, and, working within her desired color scheme, help her pick out the flowers. 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 usually 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 trowel, and head for the garden site. Before you dig, place every plant on the garden’s surface where it might be planted; move the plants around until they are where your mother says they look best. Once placement is decided, you’re ready to plant. The top of the planted soil plug should be just above ground level, not sitting too high or too low in the soil.
Mulch your flowerbed with shredded bark, wood chips, or pine needles. Mulch keeps the weeds down 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. 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 you’ve created for her. Then take a look at your thumbs. They may have turned a greener shade of green!
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Lavender Shades Penta is the flower idea of the week. This very showy plant has such an abundance of flowers that few other plants can compete with it. Butterflies love the fragrance and fly in from far and wide to enjoy the nectar. With an impressive 20” spread at maturity, this new introduction of lavender offers lots of colorful flowers for the garden buck.
Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.