It’s that time of year again, West Coast Gardeners! Another chance to create an eye-popping, traffic-stopping, jaw-dropping and compliment-swapping annual plant masterpiece in your yard. All it takes is some nursery-shopping and a few tips along the way.
Before you jump in the car to come visit us (and we can’t wait to see you either!) there are a few things I recommend doing to prepare your flower beds.
The Van Gogh of gardening - starting with your soil
Every artist preps their canvas and your garden is your masterpiece! Making sure the soil is at its best will show all the way up to the summer blooms. Pull up those winter pansies and, if they still look great, think about moving them to pots instead.
Loosen up that soil from its long winter weathering with a three prong cultivator and work some of the life back into that dirt. I recommend not pulling out the rototiller, as it ends up grinding the soil.
It’s a great idea to hill your garden bed. Simply put, this means to mound your soil up so that it’s much higher than your grass level, and clearly visible. Not only will this look great, but it will keep your garden beds free draining and prevent your plants from sitting in boggy, soggy soil.
Now it’s time to get really up close and personal with your soil. What does it look like? If you’re seeing a lot of clay then you might need to add in some peat moss. If it’s looking a bit thin, then try beefing it up with a bag of fertilizer.
I always recommend using Sea Soil on your garden beds every year, to keep them healthy in one easy step. (I get very enthusiastic about Sea Soil and the amazing benefits it can give your garden in this article.)
A two inch layer of Sea Soil over top of your mounded and raked garden bed will keep those newly upturned weed seeds from germinating and destroying your hard work. Let that sit for a week before putting in those annuals.
Designing a three dimensional garden
Flat is good for smart phones, planking and cheap airmail, but we want to make sure our gardens really pop! Adding height can be an easy way to do this. Take those gardening accidents (whoops, I cracked another terra cotta pot…) and nestle them right in your garden bed to raise up some of your plants. If they leak - it doesn’t matter!
Rather than using rocks or logs as eye-catching garden accents, try some concrete or fiberstone pots. These keep the same “natural” feel but without losing precious room for your annuals.
Scheming with those colours
One of the best parts of spring is coming up with a creative colour scheme for my annual gardens every year. You can find blooms and foliage in just about every shade in our nursery and greenhouses, so it might be a good idea to have something in mind before coming to visit.
A colour scheme can be simple, such as using all warm colours (yellow, oranges and reds) for a bold and bright sunny garden. Warm coloured foliage in light and bright greens will complement those colours well. Or maybe you like the cool end of the spectrum and want to plant blues, violets and fuchsias with dark purple foliage.
Another option is to match your home. For example, I had a front garden full of tropical orange, yellows and reds to match my bright red door! What colour is your house? What about the trim or the fence? Wouldn’t your blue hybrid look great parked next to a patch of violet annuals? Perhaps you want to be patriotic (Go Canada!) on our 150th birthday this year.
Colour outside of the lines
A beautiful garden bed is usually full and immense, without too much “personal space” for each plant. (It’s ok for them to touch, really!) Unlike our colouring books there isn’t any strict lines for plants to grow inside. In fact, placing your annuals closer together leaves less room for weeds and will save you time in the summer. Take a look at the plant tag when you purchase for specific spacing instructions.
Now it’s time for the hard work! The cool hours of the early morning are ideal for planting, however a late afternoon gardening session will work as well. Avoid planting during the hottest time of the day so you don’t stress out your annuals.
The trowel is the paintbrush of the gardener. Push aside the soil for your annual, place the plant, then cover the roots in soil again. If you’re a gardening Picasso, that’s ok, your plants will grow straight even if they get planted a bit crooked.
Once you’ve completely filled your masterpiece with annuals, go ahead and give them a really good watering. This will encourage the soil to stick to their roots and prevent them from drying out. You can then sit back for a week and enjoy, before having to water them again.