Redesigning Your Existing Garden

If you have a garden that is overgrown, understated or lacking color at some parts of the growing season, a simple redesign may be all that is in order.

Sometimes all a garden really needs is some basic care. Splitting and possibly repositioning some of your plants could give it the new life that you are looking for. If you’ve never split your plants before, it’s probably time. Most perennials divide easily, however you might want to take care on exactly when you decide to split them. In the heat of August is not usually the best time to split your garden because it will cause stress on your plants.

It is definitely possible to split your plants during the hottest part of the year, just expect that they will not look their best for the rest of the growing season and they will need a lot of water and a lot of love in order for them to come back the following year. Some garden experts will tell you to divide in the spring as your plants are coming out of hibernation. Personally, I prefer to divide plants in the Fall, when you can tell exactly how much of the plant you have and the colors and textures are fresh in your mind.

Most perennials are fairly easy to split, such as Day Lillies, Hostas, Coreopsis, Echinacea (Cone Flowers), Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan), and Monarda (Bee Balm), though there are some that you should not ever attempt to split such as Russian Sage and Hydrangea. If you are unsure if your plant is splittable do some research. A simple Google Search could answer your questions. If you don’t know what the name of the plant is you can start looking through Gardening Magazines or Catalogs as well. There are many great Plant Identification Web Sites out there such as Plantcare’s Encyclopedia . Another resource for plant identification could be your local Master Gardeners. You can locate the Master Gardeners in your area at AHSPl.

Once you’ve split your plants, you can either use your splits in another part of your garden or in another garden. If you don’t have a home for your splits, one of your neighbors or friends may want to add them to their garden. Giving away free plants is a great way to make gardening friends. Once the swap gets started it usually continues. It is a great way to add variety to your gardens as well as contributing to the variety and beauty of others.

The Understated Garden

Having an understated garden could mean different things to different people. If you’re looking to add a little more pizazz to your garden you first need to decide whether you would prefer more color, more height, more texture, more contrast or more variety.

If you are looking for color, which color? Designing with plants is similar to Interior Design. Certain colors work well with others according to the color wheel theory. However, designing with nature has a lot more forgiveness than the traditional color wheel. Mix and match however you choose to create a Cottage or Country Style Garden. If you want a more formal or even look, pick two or three contrasting colors and balance them throughout the garden.

To add height to your garden you first have to evaluate your garden setting. Is there a backdrop, such as a building that the garden sets against? If so, you may want to have your tallest plants at the back of your garden. Great tall plants for the back of a border are Foxglove, Delphinium, Hollyhock, Mallow, Echinacea, some varieties of

Day Lillies and Russian Sage.

On the other hand, if you have too much height, you may want to add plants to the front of your garden, such as Creeping Phlox, Coreopsis or ground cover varieties of Sedum. If you have too much height in an Island garden, use the shorter plants on the outside of the garden.

Adding texture and contrast to your garden usually coincide. If you have a lot of green foliage with thick leaves and stems, consider adding some dark foliage or whispy green leaved plants. Dark leaved foliage flowers such as Husker Red Penstemon or Palace Purple Heuchera (Coral Bells) will add dimension and contrast easily with little effort. Both Husker Red Penstemon and Heuchera are easy to maintain. Plants with smaller, whispier leaves such as Coreopsis will add a little bit of whimsy and lightness to your garden.

Balancing Bloom Times

If your garden is lacking color at a particular time of the season you may need only a couple of plants to make your garden bloom all season long. Depending on which season you feel that your garden is lacking color, here are some suggestions:

If you need Spring Color:

Plant fall bulbs such as Tulips, Hycaniths and Daffodils. Some other great early season performers are Columbine, Cupid’s Dart, Lungwort, Bleeding Heart, Iris, Salvia and some varieties of Shasta Daisies.

If you need early Summer Color:

Try adding English Daisies, Evening Primrose, and Penstemon. Foxglove, Peony, Spider Wort and Lavender.

For mid and late Summer Color:

My favorites are Coreopsis, Shasta Daisy, Cone Flowers, Bee Balm, Black Eyed Susan, Hosta, Ligularia, and Sedum.

For Fall Color:

Classic Fall blooms include Chrysanthemum, Sedum and Aster.

Other Ideas

If your flowers aren’t necessarily what you are unhappy with, or you need a little more of a boost to your garden, consider adding some hardscaping such as a pathway or a border. Garden art is always fun to play with whether it’s an old chair, a milk jug or a trellis. The best part about your garden is that it’s yours. Do with it what makes you happy!

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