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Create the perfect garden

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Transform your garden into a beautiful oasis by following these tips that will help you pick, plant and care for your plants.

Just like you, plants need space. Do not plant them too close together, as lack of space will prevent them from growing well.

Choose the right varieties

Professional gardeners know that plants that are unsuitable for your field are unlikely to live for a long time, despite all the care you give them. This rule applies not only to perennials, but also to the annuals that adorn your garden for a few months. Make a list of features: pH and ease of work, sunshine and shade, rain, cold weather, summer heat and humidity, and any other details you feel are important. Even if several books enlighten you on the needs of common garden plants, trust your common sense. For example, if you live near the Great Lakes, choose plants that grow in the area or in similar places, so you will avoid making serious mistakes. See which predators live in your area, such as deer. If you are not aware, check with your local nursery.

Adapt the plants to your garden

If you decide to choose for your landscaping shrubs that grow in acid soils, such as rhododendrons and azaleas, while the soil of your garden is not acid, know that you expose yourself to long-term work. Of course the pH of your soil can be changed, but it is only a temporary solution. PH-reducing products only take effect at most once a season and must be applied each year. A garden that requires such maintenance may have a long life, but its chances diminish as you redouble efforts. Think about it before planting a shrub living in the sun in a shady garden or a plant preferring moisture in a semi-arid soil.

Say “no” to invasive plants

Even if you like invasive plants, it is better for you and your garden than you get rid of them. These plants, of a nature to quickly occupy all the territory, will oblige you, at a given moment, to start again completely your garden. So, if you plan to keep your garden healthy for a long time, be careful and choose plants that will live in harmony with their peers. Ask a qualified nursery to help you recognize the different varieties of plants.

Divide to better reproduce

Most perennial herbaceous plants, such as aster, daylily and phlox need to be divided regularly. This means that every three or five years, you have to dig them up, and then separate the roots into small clumps, cutting them or shaking them, before transplanting them. The division promotes abundant flowering and the growth of new and vigorous plants. The astilbes are a good example: if we do not take care to divide them over the years, they will flower less and less, because the roots will tend to become dense and woody. But divided, the same tuft will allow you to obtain a rich flowering. However, do not do this for all plants. All perennials do not need to be divided, some react very badly to this treatment.

Give space to the plants

If you plant trees or perennials too close to each other, they will end up shading, and some by living at the expense of others. Although it is not easy to imagine how big the seedlings will be when they are adults, plan to distance them enough according to their size at maturity. This rule is even more true for trees than for perennials, because once established, moving them becomes a rather difficult task. Any good book dealing with plants will let you know how big the seedlings will grow to adulthood.

Wait before planting bulbs

Spring bulbs bring joy when they bloom. They create an explosion of colors while the other plants are still at rest, while being a good remedy for the winter blues. But if your perennial garden is new, it is better to wait one or two seasons before planting bulbs. Make sure you are happy with the layout and do not make any major changes. If you decide to modify your garden in the middle of the summer, you risk breaking the new bulbs with your digging fork. Be patient and sow your bulbs only when you know what you really want, it will avoid replanting.

Find what you are looking for on the web

Before the arrival of the Internet, gardeners had to move heaven and earth to find plants that are out of the ordinary. But today even small gardeners have their site. A quick search will take you to dozens of sites dedicated to these previously untraceable plants. For best results, first type the scientific name and then the current name of the plant that interests you; also add the proper name of the variety, if you deem it appropriate.

Dr. Monika Mathur

Ph.D Yale University

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