Gardening is an art form that has been around for centuries. Organizing a vast array of plants, trees and flowers into a dedicated garden is a delightful experience that is pleasing to the eye and beneficial to the environment. There are so many varieties and colors to choose from, and no two gardens are alike. However, if you’ve had the same plants for several years, you may be looking for something a little different this season. Luckily, there are always new things to discover at your local nursery that can spruce up your existing plantings and create a fresh look just in time for summer.
Adding something new
Southern magnolias, crape myrtles and hydrangeas are extremely popular in our area, chosen by gardeners year after year. But there are definitely variations on these favorites that you can add to your garden if you are looking for a change.
Martha Dudley, retail manager at Rainfrost Nursery in Forest, suggests crape myrtles with darker foliage. “They are relatively new, and are definite standouts when in bloom,” she says. Another item Dudley notes is gaining popularity is the ‘Itoh’ peony, a cross between the herbaceous peony and the tree peony, which she recommends both for its beauty and because it is a perennial, ensuring years of enjoyment. Due to the rise in beekeeping in our area, Dudley says her customers are also interested in bee-friendly plants and flowers, such as sunflowers, goldenrods and rhododendrons, for their gardens. And, though not new, she says that for a standout focal feature, “Japanese maples are always a ‘wow,’ and a newer trend is to use dwarf varieties in containers, surrounded at the base by annual blooms.”
Ashby Perrow, manager of Liberty Landscape Supply in Bedford, says, “The biggest thing I’ve noticed that people are leaning toward these days are ornamental grasses, and native plants and cultivars that thrive in their chosen climate.” He says people like them because they offer year-round appeal. Some of the more popular ornamental grasses for our area include pampas grass, ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass and Pennsylvania sedge. “These plants have minimal upkeep and will take up more space in your garden, so there are fewer areas to mulch,” Perrow says.
Both Perrow and Dudley favor the panicle hydrangea this season as an update to traditional hydrangeas. “They take pruning well and are all-around great plants,” says Dudley. According to Perrow, “Panicle hydrangea has a pointy bloom instead of a traditional round bloom, and it is better out in the sun.” He adds that ‘Limelight’ is a favorite panicle variety of his, saying, “It has a lime-colored flower that fades to pink.” Perrow also recommends the smaller version of Limelight, called ‘Little Lime.’
There are other ways to enhance your garden this season, especially if you don’t have a large area for planting. Dudley says that vertical gardening, which uses a support system to encourage plants to grow up instead of out, has been gaining in popularity. There are many different types of supports that can be used in vertical gardening, such as trellises, garden netting, or even pocket planters, which are fabric containers with multiple pockets for plants. A more modern type of vertical gardening is the living wall. You can create an entire wall made up of your favorite plants such as mosses, succulents, ferns and ivy. Herbs and vegetables are also wonderful choices for vertical gardening because they are farther away from pests and critters on the ground, and produce a better harvest due to increased air flow. If you are considering downsizing but don’t want to give up your green thumb, vertical gardening may be the answer. Many nurseries offer dwarf versions of favorite plants that can be used in smaller spaces, and vertical gardens have the added benefit of privacy if you have neighbors in close proximity.
Container gardening is always popular if you lack space. Perrow notes that he has been seeing a lot of raised garden beds for tomatoes, and also says, “People use containers to add color, and to have a planting space on their apartment deck or patio.” Dudley has noticed her customers leaning towards planters that hold vegetables and flowers together. Her advice for a successful container is to have a “thriller plant, a filler plant and a spiller plant.” She says a good combination would be “a tomato plant as the thriller, marigolds as the filler and an herb of some sort for the spiller.” Due to the rise in upcycling and vintage decor, many unusual items are now being used for creative container gardening. If you’ve stuck with traditional pots and planters so far, why not try something different, like a wagon, a flea market crate, an old dresser drawer, or even a birdbath? Classic flowers and plants can look new again just by changing the way they are presented in your garden.
Eco-friendly gardening has become more attractive lately, as people vow to be kinder to the environment and find solutions to the challenges provided by Mother Nature. For example, ground covers like pachysandra and creeping phlox can reduce mowing and watering, and will also aid areas prone to erosion. Planting pollinatorfriendly plants makes sure that generations of plants will continue to survive. Organic gardening and composting is good for the soil and even better for our water supply. And, growing our own food allows us to produce fruits and vegetables with less pesticides and more nutrients.
Updating your garden can be as simple as adding a few new plants or flowers, or as complex as recreating the entire space. Whether you want to explore container gardening this summer, build a living wall or start being more environmentally friendly with your garden, there are experts in your community ready to help. One short trip to the nursery can provide you with fresh ideas and a new look that you can enjoy for months to come!