Spring Shopping Like a Professional Gardener

by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

March and April seem to have had nicer weather than May, so it looks like our official planting date this year is closer to Memorial Day rather than the usual Mother’s Day.  I’ve been planting in waves, so if a weather glitch happens the entire garden is not at frosty risk.  I have about 75% of the vegetable gardens planted and most of the flowers now in pots.  Basil, cilantro, eggplant, and the rest of the cold sensitive plants are on hold to be planted in the next couple of weeks.

With the uncertainty brought on by May’s cold, rainy, windy weather, it’s hard to avoid Customer in the garden centerwalking out of the garden center with either too much or too little of what’s needed for spring gardens. There are a few steps that help size up what your garden must have, assess the nursery’s inventory, and shop it with the ease and confidence of a professional.  This week’s column is a bit wordy, but this is exactly how professional gardeners approach the spring planting season.  Here’s the list in order of execution:

Recall last year’s garden.  Photographs of last year’s gardens are the best means to jog your memory about the lackluster plants that should be replaced, those that need to be moved, divided, or enhanced with the additions of new plants.  Besides pictures, when memory fails, garden journals are dependable sources for details.

Photograph and measure containers.  Clean and then place your pots where they will be for the season.  Take a picture and print it; then pencil in the correct width and depth of each pot. Check to see if saucers are damaged or cracked.  With these bits of information you’ll be able to shop for your specific needs and take home the perfect plants and equipment in the right quantities.

Set your budget, take stock, and make a list. Walk your landscape and take note of plants that were damaged or decimated by winter.  Guesstimate how much potting soil, plant food, mulch, and other materials you need. Check expiration dates on old fertilizers or insect controls.  Check and test the condition of tools.  The start of the season is the best time to repair, replace, or add a garden tool.

Determine colors.   Choose foliage and bloom colors that make you feel good.  Get Rose bush in womans hands_259inspiration from famous gardens, or from a neighborhood landscape. For inspiration to make color choices, look to a favorite painting and/or outfit of clothing, and to pages torn from magazines.  The colors you choose set the tone and emotion of the garden.

TRENDY COLOR NOTE:  The artistry of gardening is found in the colors of flowers.  Lisa and I follow designer trends and grow flowers that lead in style.  Pantone, the leader when it comes to color, offers this trend update: “This spring there is an emphasis on the cooler and softer side of the color spectrum, with bold colors taking a more supportive role as accents.” Leatrice Eiseman, of the Pantone Color Institute® suggests that “Escape from the everyday hustle and bustle are this year’s soothing cool hues blended with subtle warm tones”

Bring photos.  Watters’ plant ambassadors are here to help.  Need a color assist, or a simple plant ID? You’ll get an accurate identification with a snapshot, a picture from a magazine, or an iPad or Smartphone image.

Assemble possible plant purchases.  Instead of walking back and forth retracing your steps at the garden center, place plants on your shopping cart as you consider them.  Use part of your cart as an audition area, arranging plants as you would in a bed or container.  When you find interesting new plants swap them around to see which you like best.

Walk the whole nursery.  With over 2 acres of plants, Watters is far more than a collection point of annual flowers.  Cruise the whole store to discover and create interesting additions to your garden.  Explore tropicals, houseplants, perennials, and succulents for the porch or patio.  Look for attractive flowers, fruits, and foliage that complement each other.  Try adding edibles into the mix.  Nothing delivers ‘Southwest style’ like the blue of artichoke plants in a container spilling over with strawberry plants setting fruit.  In other words, get creative, have fun!

Try something new each season.  We all have our favorites, but I like to leave 10% of the garden’s space for experiments. Trying new varieties really brings out the gardener in each of us. It’s fun to reach out and live on the edge of your plant world.  My most creative gardens started with the inspiration from a new plant.

Shop each phase of the season.  You’ll find that local nurseries offer new stock all season long.  Keep in mind that:  you’ll find fresh annuals after the early planting season is over, perennials have their best show in June, larger specimen plants are available in July and August, and the best fall color is in October. Make a point of browsing the nursery each season as the plant offerings change.

Until next time, 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 www.wattersgardencenter.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/WattersGardenCenter .

2 Replies to “Spring Shopping Like a Professional Gardener”

  1. That’s such a good idea to take pictures of your garden. Then you can easily see what needs to be replaced or what needs a little more work based on pictures from last year. It will also give you a good idea of how the weather will be around that time, because May is usually unpredictable.

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