April 2010 Issue
Seeds of Knowledge
A Kingwood Center expert gives tips on starting a flower garden.
Planting your first flower garden can seem like a daunting task. There is, after all, much to think about — will you have sunlight or shade? Will you have time to water every day? Will this be a warm summer, or cool?
Bill Collins, head gardener at Kingwood Center in Mansfield, offers his advice for those just venturing into the world of gardening. Follow these tips to get blooming.
When planning your garden, beware of the favorites — tulips and roses are the most popular flowers at Kingwood, but Collins cautions that they’re also the most challenging to maintain. “These are high-maintenance flowers,” Collins says. However, if roses are your goal, “shrub roses and horticultural roses tend to be low-maintenance, more disease-resistant and don't need a lot of pruning.”
Tulips are also a challenge because, they “go downhill” after every bloom, as their bulbs deteriorate each year. Tulips also attract deer, squirrels and other backyard creatures.
“They're not as easy as daffodils or snowdrops, which are much better for yearly blooms,” he says. “Daffodils are also more animal resistant, as they have chemicals on them that keep critters at bay.”
Collins stresses planting of perennials over annuals when first starting out.
“Beginning gardeners’ best bet is to plant a perennial garden and, for a bit of annual color, plant geraniums, petunias and marigolds throughout. But, do not plant all annuals — you’ll have to plant and buy these flowers each year,” he cautions.
Collins recommends hardy perennials such as peonies, irises and daylilies. “Daylilies are a great perennial,” he adds. “You can opt for miniature, regular or large-sized blooms that will come back year after year without a ton of maintenance.
And although flower choice is certainly an important part of gardening, Collins notes that success rests in your soil.
“A good tip is to put a lot of effort into your soil preparation — a good garden needs a good base,” he says. “If you take the time to prepare the base right, you’ll get much more out of your garden. A lot of compost is a good idea, too.”
Mulch is also important, as it keeps weeds at bay and moisture in. Collins also recommends edging flowerbeds to make constant trimming unnecessary, and timely fertilization.
“Kingwood fertilizes after a good, heavy bloom so that the next will also be a good, heavy bloom,” he says.
Educating yourself about gardening before planting will help you avoid costly mistakes. “Go to the library or get online and educate yourself,” he says. “You can’t just go to the garden center and pick out flowers you think are pretty and [plant] them into the ground. Certain plants need shade, others sun, some wet environments, others dry. Make sure you know what your area can handle.”
Garden clubs and societies and workshops are also great places to get information. Clubs are full of people who are knowledgeable, while workshops offer hands-on practice. This May, Kingwood Center will host Spring Fest, where garden enthusiasts will find plant-related talks and demonstrations.
As for timesaving tips, “They don’t really exist,” Collins says. “All good gardeners should be outside checking on their plants on a daily basis.”