Getout & grow

Published on Thu, Mar 25, 2004 by B. Durbin Wean

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Get out & grow

By B. Durbin Wean

In my first article last week I gave you an assignment to think about what you wanted your garden to be. Some possibilities might have been a cottage garden, a wildlife garden, a woodland garden, a garden with Italian or French overtones, an English garden or a garden with an Asian feel. You may have considered a garden with a spot for vegetables, a kid’s play area, a cut flower garden, a container garden, or a garden that is waterwise. Maybe you want several of the above.
If you are starting from scratch at a newly constructed home and your home has the large windows, a deeply pitched roof with a formal entry typical of the latest building trends, this style may call for a more formal look for your garden. You might consider a dwarf boxwood hedge around the entry walks, or you could think about a weeping cherry in the front bed near the home. Possibly add one or two spiral topiaries in lovely ceramic containers at the door entry. This may be a home that would look beautiful with a clipped lawn and just a few elegant shrubs anchoring the home to the yard. You could arrange a plant-ing area in the front by the driveway that might have three jacquemonte birch (white bark), several colors of heather, and at least three good evergreen medium shrubs like viburnum davidii, that would look beautiful with the white bark of the trees in the winter.
In trying to decide whether to install turf or plant a lawn these are the questions to consider. Do you want instant lawn? Install turf. If finances are a consideration (aren’t they always?) plant seed. Prepare the ground for either application by killing the weeds with Roundup, wait at least a week, then rototill several times.

You will probably need to add some topsoil so buy a three-way mix that has some sand in it. You can find topsoil suppliers in the yellow pages. Roll (you can rent a roller) and rake the topsoil at least two or three times to even the surface of the site. Now spread starter fertilizer and seed or install the turf. There is no mystery, just hard work! After you water your new lawn, sit in your adirondack chair with a glass of wine or iced tea, and watch the grass grow.

A hint about selecting plants. Make sure that your nursery professional has information about the plants to send home with you. If you’re not sure how the plants you buy will look, place them in their containers where you will plant them. Now, ask yourself if the placement suits you considering the ultimate future size of the plant. If it doesn’t, ask your nursery professional if you can exchange plants and try again. Trust your instincts, remembering you can always move a plant later if it seems to have grown like a jack-in-the-beanstalk. You will make mistakes, but it is the only way to learn about gardening unless you have a professional design your garden. Remember, Tiger Woods isn’t always on his game. You are in a good company as you practice your gardening.

Next week I will talk about how to achieve other garden styles, and also touch on veggie gardens. So we will meet again, same time, same place, and your assignment, should you accept it is to plunge in and start!