The Roundup -

How to Pick Flowers


Every kid loves ​playing in the dirt. Having kids help in the garden gives them an understanding of the time and effort it takes to make things grow and gives them a sense of accomplishment when they see the tiny seeds sprout.

To say that I am an amateur gardener is to be very generous with the term; really, I just like to play in the dirt and see if something beautiful comes of it. Gardening is a hobby that anyone can enjoy in some form regardless of money, time, or space. Herb garden on your windowsill anyone?

My main project this year is a recently added 24' x 8' flower bed on the east side of our house; the size was, in part, to accommodate three miniature lilac bushes that had to be transplanted. So now I am left to decide what to do with the rest; my experience is mostly with perennials, which come back every year, so I am going to make this new flower garden an annuals-only bed and try my hand at something new.

One of the things I love about gardening is that it can be very cost effective; I decided that hiring a landscaper to till up the bed, add dirt, and transplant the lilacs was the best investment of my money and would save me the most time. We used railroad ties that we already had as the border for the bed and dirt from an abandoned raised bed mixed with a few bags of hummus. Still, I garden on a budget and therefore decided to start many of the annuals indoors from seed.

So how do you choose what to grow? My perennial beds are a grab bag of thinned plants from friends and family that have been given to me over the years. Some were planted with a design in mind and others have a mind of their own and grow where they darn-well please. With my annuals-only bed, I had to do some considering. I knew that I wanted flowers that would bloom throughout the summer and would be able to survive me, meaning they needed to be drought resistant, sun-loving, poor-soil thriving plants. There are plants out there that do well with a little abuse and neglect and those are the ones for me!

"Can we plant sunflowers?" my ten-year-old asked.

Yes, we can.

"Cosmos would be pretty with the sunflowers," my mother suggested.

Yes, they would. Alright, there's a place to start. I decided to look for flowers that would be striking in terms of their height and would tier down nicely. I also decided on a color scheme of yellows, varying shades of pink, with a little bit of white, orange, and blue. Additionally, I chose to use flowers that had pretty foliage such as cosmos and moss roses. Foliage creates a nice backdrop for the shorter flowers at the front of the bed and adds interesting texture.

My 'research' involved standing at the seed packets in the grocery store and reading the growing conditions of those I thought were pretty, along with a few conversations with my mother who can grow just about anything, and from that I made my selection.

There will be seven 12" rows minus the growing space for the lilac bushes; the back row being yellow sunflowers which are impressive with their height and are a functional flower in that we can harvest them for birdseed. Next will be a row of pink and white cosmos, this variety will grow 4' to 5' tall. The third row will be a different cosmos variety in yellows and oranges and will grow 3' to 4' tall. Then there will be a row of bachelor's buttons, a pretty blue cornflower that stands at roughly 2 ½ feet. Row five will (yep, one more time) be a dwarf cutesy mix of pink and white cosmos, growing to about 2 feet tall. Nasturtiums will come next, a fragrant, double flowered bloom, and then in the front row there will be 8 morning glory bushes to add another type of blue flowers. These are complete compliments of my mother who suggested them and planted extras for me. Lastly, I will fill in around the morning glory bushes with moss roses, a flower I have fond memories of my Grandma Youngquist growing as long as I can remember. They will be a mix of yellows, oranges, pinks, and whites and will hopefully tie all the colors together while keeping weeds at bay with their spiky leaves and spreading nature.

All of the flowers I've chosen are appropriate for full sun and described one or more: easy to grow, drought resistant, tolerates poor soil, hearty, or 'nope, not even Meagan can kill them.' Alright, I made that last part up, but we will see!

After plotting the bed out on graph paper, I figured out how many of each flower I would need... and then I planted several more. This will give me a few extra and it will also allow me to plant a little closer than recommended which is something you can get away with when planting annuals, because they will not spread the following season. This will also help keep weeds from growing by simply not giving them room to come up, and really, who doesn't want their flowers growing like weeds?

With the help of my kids, we planted our flower seeds indoors a couple weeks apart, which will prolong blooming. We will plant after Mother's Day, which is another rule of thumb my mom has given me. The cosmos and half of the bachelor' buttons will be directly seeded into the garden and the seedlings we've started indoors will get a little bit of oatmeal in the bottom of each hole which, in my experience with planting in general, gives them a little extra nutrition and helps them make the transition. Remember to loosen the roots when you're putting flowers in so that they spread; plants that don't have their root-ball loosened will more than likely die despite diligent efforts.

My love is for flower gardens and every year I try to reason myself into a vegetable garden, telling myself that home grown vegetables will be far more rewarding than pretty flowers that die away. As it turns out, I am wrong every single year. There is just something about a beautiful flower bed that makes my heart happy. Good luck to you whether you're planting annuals, perennials, or vegetables and have fun playing in the dirt. If it doesn't turn out exactly as you planned it, chances are it will still be lovely and there is always next year. Plant what makes you happy and then remember to take time to enjoy it, after all, it is supposed to be fun!


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