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10 Jun 2011

Best Plants for your Garden

Choosing the Best Plants

Many times we buy plants on impulse then find there is nowhere in the garden that really suits them. Before buying plants, carefully examine your garden to see how much sun and shade it gets, whether the soil is well drained or waterlogged and whether your aspect is sheltered or windswept. You’ll then be equipped to go and buy the best plants for your situation; shade-loving plants for the sheltered areas, sun-lovers for the warm spots, drought-resistant plants for the parched areas which may be either sunny or shaded, and swamp plants for the poorly-drained parts.

But wait! Test your soil first, to determine the pH level of your soil and what kind of nutrients you need to add, if any. Is the soil acid or alkaline? Most plants prefer soil that is slightly acidic, but there are some that must have alkaline soil to grow. You can alter the soil’s pH level, but it’s much easier to simply plant for the soil you have.

Now you are ready to plant. Well – almost. Will you plant in groups or singly? If you buy ‘one of everything’ your garden may seem rather spotty. Group plantings are organized, harmonious and you can vary the color for interest.

Before planting out, place your chosen best plants around the garden bed in their pots to see how they will look. Re-arrange them until you are satisfied. Grouping plants in sets of threes or fives usually looks better than planting in groups of even numbers. Be sure that you have an interesting combination of colors and textures of plants. Tall plants should go to the back, or the center if your garden will be viewed equally from all sides. Try to keep your plants away from trees. The roots of trees are fiercely competitive and will steal all the nutrients and moisture meant for your flowers.

best plants

The right color scheme is one way to maintain the harmony in your garden. Imagine the color of the flowers when they are in bloom. Some colors may clash with others, but can still be planted side-by-side if they have a different blooming season. Foliage color is also important. Many flower plants have silver, grey or purplish foliage that is just as attractive as the flower. This means that they are still attractive well past the blooming season and so have added value.

Picking a Healthy Plant

When it comes to getting started with your garden, you have two choices; planting seeds, or buying entire plants. Both have their own benefits. If you plant seeds and care for them every day, you will find it is a much more rewarding experience when you have a full, healthy plant. However, this method is a lot more risky. I can’t tell you how many seeds I’ve planted and never seen any trace of whatsoever.

If you choose to buy the best plants from a nursery and install it in your garden, it reduces a lot of the work involved in making it healthy. However, I have found in the past that many incompetent nursery workers will absolutely ruin the future of the plant by putting certain chemicals or fertilizers in. I have adapted to this incompetence by learning to choose the healthiest plant of the bunch. Here I will discuss some of the techniques I use in my screening process for plants.

best plants

It may sound superficial, but the one thing you need to check for on your prospective plants is how nice they look. As far as plants go, you can truly judge a book by its cover. If a plant has been treated healthily and has no diseases or pests, you can almost always tell by how nice it looks. If a plant has grown up in improper soil, or has harmful bugs living in it, you can tell from the holey leaves and wilted stems.

If you’re browsing the nursery shelves looking for your dream plant, you want to exclude anything that currently has flowers. Plants are less traumatized by the transplant if they do not currently have any flowers. It’s best to find ones that just consist of buds. However if all you have to choose from are flowering plants, then you should do the unthinkable and sever all of them. It will be worth it for the future health of the plant. I’ve found that transplanting a plant while it is blooming results in having a dead plant ninety percent of the time.

Always check the roots before you plop down the money to purchase the plant. Of course if the roots are in absolutely terrible condition you will be able to tell by looking at the rest of the plant. But if the roots are just slightly out of shape, then you probably won’t be able to tell just by looking at it. Inspect the roots very closely for any signs of brownness, rottenness, or softness. The roots should always be a firm, perfectly well formed infrastructure that holds all the soil together. One can easily tell if the roots are before or past their prime, depending on the root to soil ratio. If there are a ridiculous amount of roots with little soil, or a bunch of soil with few roots, you should not buy that plant.

If you find any abnormalities with the plant, whether it be the shape of the roots or any irregular features with the leaves, you should ask the nursery employees. While usually these things can be the sign of an unhealthy plant, occasionally there will be a logical explanation for it. Always give the nursery a chance before writing them off as horrendous. After all, they are (usually) professionals who have been dealing with plants for years.

So if you decide to take the easy route and get your best plants from a nursery, you just have to remember that the health of the plants has been left up to someone you don’t know. Usually they do a good job, but you should always check for yourself. Also take every precaution you can to avoid transplant shock in the plant (when it has trouble adjusting to its new location, and therefore has health problems in the future). Usually the process goes smoothly, but you can never be too sure.

Interested to learn more on choosing the best plants for your garden?                                                                          Contact the experts at 805-773-5395 to schedule an appointment.

03 Jun 2011

Flower Gardening

flower gardening

Flower gardening is very popular nowadays. Flowers can brighten everyone’s day, they smell nice, and are a great hobby. Flower gardening is easy, cheap, and loads of fun. Flower gardening can be done for yard decoration, simply as a hobby, or even professionally.

flower gardening

Decide what you would like your garden to look like before purchasing the flowers. For instance, mixing different heights, colors, and varieties of flowers together in a “wild-plant style” will give your garden a meadow look and can be very charming. If short flowers are planted in the front of your garden and work up to the tallest flowers in the back you will have a “stepping stone style”.

Most people will go to the nursery and buy actual flowers and then transplant them, but you can also order seeds for flower gardening from catalogs or buy them from a nursery… After you have prepared your garden area and bought flowers, it is a good idea to lay the flowers out in the bed to make sure you like the arrangement and that they will be spaced properly.

One of the easiest processes in flower gardening is planting the seeds, because you can just sprinkle them around in the flower bed. For transplanting, dig a hole a bit bigger than the flower, pull the container off, and set the flower in the hole right side up. Cover it with the loose soil and press down firmly, then water.

Flower Gardening Tips

Knowing how to properly care for your flower garden can make a huge difference in the look and health of the plants. Here are some super easy hints to help your garden look its best:

1. Take care of the essentials first.

Your flower garden must have an adequate supply of water, fertile soil, and sunlight. If your plants’ basic needs aren’t being met, the garden will fail. Keep on mind that during dry spells, your flowers will need to be watered more often.

flower gardening

Make sure to plant your bulbs at the correct depth. When planting out shrubs and perennials, make sure that you don’t pile soil or mulch up around the stem. You want to make sure that water has a chance to sink in instead of rolling off and the stem could develop rot through overheating.

2. Mix perennials with annuals.

Before you plant flowers, you need to make some important choices. You must decide if you want annuals that live for one season and must be replanted every year, or perennials that survive the winter and return again in the summer. You will also want to pay attention to plant flowers that can live happily in your particular area and climate.

Perennial flower bulbs don’t have to be replanted since they grow and bloom for several years while annuals grow and bloom for only one season. Put some Perennials in your garden to keep blooms year round.

3. Deadhead to encourage more blossoms.

Deadheading is snipping off the flower head after it wilts. This will make the plant produce more flowers. Discard your deadhead away from the garden or you will end up with mildew or diseases that will harm your plants.

4. Know your bugs.

Most garden insects do more good than harm. Sow bugs and dung beetles together with fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms are necessary to help in the decomposition of dead plant material, thus enriching the soil and making more nutrients available to growing plants.

flower gardening

Butterflies, beetles and bees are known pollinators. They fertilize plants through unintentional transfer of pollen from one plant to another. 80% of flowering plants rely on insects for survival. Other insects like lacewings and dragonflies are natural predators of those insects that do the real damage, like Aphis.

5. Add organic nutrients.

Maintaining a flower garden is even easier than planting one. It is a good idea to fertilize your flower bed early in the season. To save yourself work during the next season of flower gardening, rid your garden of all debris and spread out organic nutrients like peat moss or compost. Don’t forget to turn over the soil to properly mix in the fertilizer and rake smooth when finished. If you have perennials planted be careful not to disturb their roots in this process.

Extra notes:

An occasional application of liquid fertilizer when plants are flowering will keep them blooming for longer.
Always prune any dead or damaged branches. Fuchsias are particularly prone to snapping when you brush against them. The broken branch can be potted up to give you a new plant, so it won’t be wasted.

Need a jump start with your flower gardening? Contact Evergreen Landscaping for a free consultation. Or just reach for your phone and dial 805-773-5395.

20 May 2011

Butterfly Gardening

What is butterfly gardening?

A butterfly garden is a garden with plants that are chosen specifically for their ability to attract these colorful bugs. If you can create a safe environment for your butterflies, then. Keep in mind that if you own cats or if there are outside cats in your neighborhood, that they can pose a threat to the safety of your visiting butterflies.

Designing a butterfly garden works much the same as designing any other garden in that you need to think about size, what kind of flowers you need, etc… Pick a style of garden that appeals to you, but ensure it also contains the plants and flowers that appeal to the butterflies you wish to attract.

Butterflies won’t be attracted to just any type of flower that you plant. You can find out which plants will grow in your area and attract butterflies by checking out your local library or asking a landscaper.

To create the kind of environment that they find attractive, you will also need water of some kind. A birdbath will look attractive and keep the butterflies up off the ground, away from stray cats or mischievous puppies. A shallow dish on a post or hung in a tree will do just as well.

When planting your butterfly garden, be careful how you coordinate the colors you choose for your flowerbeds. While the butterflies might not care, you probably don’t want your garden to be a mismatched pile of random flowers. Butterflies like flowers that have nectar instead of pollen,  such as honeysuckle, Daises, Lavender, and others.

Some people like  to draw and color  or Photoshop a layout of their butterfly gardening plan to see what the finished product would look like. Flashy colors such as red and orange really pop against a strong green background. Cool colors such as blue and purple are soothing and toned down and would work better with a white contrast to create the look of freshness and brightness.

When making a butterfly garden, the choices of what to embody in your butterfly garden design and style are limitless. Below are some suggestions to assist you begin. They are intended to ignite the creative process of your mind and get you started on your way to creating a lovely butterfly garden.

Before developing your butterfly garden

Discover which species of butterflies are in your area. Consider having an exploratory hike around your local area with a butterfly book guide. This may take some extra time and effort, however the outcomes satisfying. Once you have created your list of local butterfly species, be sure to jot down in your butterfly garden plan what these specific species of butterflies use for nectar and food plants.

Know that your garden is in a place that provides at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. Butterflies are cold-blooded creatures and thus do better where they are warm and sheltered.

The wind is usually a butterfly’s worst enemy so make sure to have plenty of wind protection in your design. You may grow tall shrubs and other plants to help create a wind break, but a place that avoids heavy winds is even better.

The best of all will be a butterfly garden placed on the sunny side of your house with windbreaks on both the west and east sides, or wherever the current winds come from in your area. Try to build your garden near to a window so you can observe the butterflies from indoors. Provide seating outside too.

If possible, you may excavate a location and build a stone wall around it. This may create the ideal windbreak for your butterflies. Make gravel pathways around your garden to save walking in mud.

There are numerous artistic ways for creating a butterfly garden. Take some time to layout a garden that you will enjoy and be proud of.

Need a jump a start with your garden? Contact us today for a free consultation. Call 805-773-5395.