For the past two weeks, I’ve spent all of my free time working on a new perennial garden. I love annuals too, but I’m partial to the perennial flowers that come back year after year. There’s something nice about the parallel permanence of perennials putting down their roots at the same time that we are putting ours down in this new home. I think it speaks of hope and is a nod to the future.
I’ve been a gardener for most of my life and I’ve planted many gardens at the homes where I’ve lived. Most of my planting was done in the Midwest where the rule of thumb was to wait until mid-May or around Mother’s Day, before planting to make sure there would be no more freezes.
Many times, over the years, I have planted a mix of certain colors of flowers together, or perhaps created beds of different flowers in shades of the same color.
Once, I planted blue Hydrangeas around our pool to match the blue tile that peeked above the water line. They were a lovely blue that first summer, then they came back the second year in a pretty shade of pink. That’s when I learned about alkaline and acidic pH levels in soil and their effect on different flowers!
For any new gardeners, the pH (potential of hydrogen) scale goes from 0-14, with neutral being right in the middle at 7. What’s really being measured is the concentration of hydrogen (H) ions in the soil. The more hydrogen ions there are, the more acidic or sour the soil, and fewer hydrogen ions mean the soil is more alkaline or sweet.
My Hydrangeas turned pink because the soil around my pool was too alkaline to support the blue flowers. So, to make my Hydrangeas turn blue again, I had to make the soil more acidic. This was pretty easy actually. I turned to my mentor gardener (my mom) who suggested that I place used coffee grounds around the base of my Hydrangeas for a year or two.
In Texas, the growing season begins earlier and the plants start making their appearances at the local nurseries in March. Before I went shopping for this new garden, I looked through all of my gardening books and read about which plants do best in zone 7 where I now live. After that, I made a wish list of plants and colors.
Since we live in a new house, there were no existing gardens in my backyard. My husband spent an entire Saturday removing the sod and digging up a pie-shaped garden plot for our first flower bed. (He likes gardens too.) Since our soil has a lot of clay, we added multiple bags of top soil to get the area ready for planting.
For this new garden, I decided on a mix of perennial flowers in all different colors. To find the specific plants I was looking for, I had to visit several different nurseries. Most nurseries do a really nice job of separating perennials and annuals. Some even alphabetize the plants in sections of “shade lover” or “sun lover” and have signs with all kinds of useful information for planting.
Plant nurseries are like libraries for me. I can easily get lost in them for a very long time. One sunny afternoon last week, I was slowly making my way through the perennial section at one of our local nurseries and a woman in the section with me looked up and said, “Isn’t this just the best time of the year?”
Indeed, it is!
It took me an entire day to plant the flowers and to add mulch and edging. I was pretty tired and dirty at the end of that day. Happy tired. Because the plants should double in size in the next two or three years, I had to leave room for growth. From experience, I know that the garden will grow and become more lovely each year.
One of my favorite sayings hangs in my writing room. “The Earth laughs in flowers.” I believe that is true. Now that the planning and planting of this flower garden are finished, it’s time for the tending…and for the laughter!