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Everyday Gardeners

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Landscaping

Thursday Finds in the Test Garden

Although fall has started its descent, a quick stroll through the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden proves there is still a lot of life left in the season. Here are just a few of the beauties I found flourishing in the garden.

The Knock Out shrub roses are literally a knockout in the garden. Once their blooms start kicking in spring, they’ll last up till the first hard frost in fall. It’s hard not to stop dead in your tracks to admire their beauty.

Close view of the Rainbow Knock Out shrub rose’s bloom.

Ornamental grasses are center stage right now–everywhere! The gracefulness of the switchgrass’ plumes are what makes it one of my favorites, not to mention grasses are a perfect addition to any garden for fall and winter appeal.

2008 Perennial of the YearRozanne Geranium is the longest blooming perennial geranium in the landscape right now.  I’ll be curious to see how long these flowers last this fall!

If you’ve got time or in the neighborhood, have your lunch in the test garden tomorrow–it’s open from 12-2pm! Otherwise, tune in next week…I’m anticipating a change in the scenery.


garden tour

Last winter I agreed to place my garden on tour in mid-July. At the time I didn’t think that it would take any extra effort. After all, I’m usually photographing in the garden every couple of weeks, so I try to keep it in good condition. And I always enjoy sharing my garden with those who are interested. But this spring, it struck closer to home that the beds better be fully mulched (300 bags worth!), garden projects completed (a new water garden in the backyard), gaps in beds filled in (hurray for garden center shopping trips!), and plants fully groomed (a weekend of deadheading ahead) by the time the tour arrives next week.

I think that we’re just about ready for the group. The photos below take you on a virtual tour of my backyard. Next week I’ll show you the front yard. What do you think? Will it pass muster?

Herbal knot garden with lavender, germander, marigolds, and mealycup sage

New formal water garden

Firepit seating area

Boxwood knot garden with marigolds and ageratum

Mixed shrub and perennial border

Raised bed vegetable garden and compost bin screen

Drought-tolerant border

Potager, kitchen garden

Deckscaping

Terraced vegetable beds


Dress Up Your Front

Looking for a quick way to add a little curb appeal to your yard? Try a parking-strip garden!

The little stretch of lawn between the street and the sidewalk may be a great place to add color (and it’s one less area you have to mow).

First off, check for local restrictions before planting; some communities don’t allow parking-strip gardens without permission from the municipality. Others may have restrictions on how tall/wide plants in a parking strip can grow.

To keep your parking strip usable for guests who may park on the street in front of your home, consider running mulch or flagstone pathways through your garden to give them a way to walk through.

Need inspiration? Check out this stunning example, which features:

  • Supertunia Vista Bubblegum petunias
  • Snow Princess sweet alyssum
  • ‘Redbor’ kale
  • ‘Perfume Deep Purple’ nicotiana
  • Variegated iris
  • Chives

petunia-blog


planting by the numbers

With temperatures here in Des Moines forecast for the mid-40s this weekend for the first time in more than 3 months, we’re daring to think that spring may finally be on its way. It will take several more weeks for all the snow to melt away, but in the meantime I can plan and dream about what I’ll plant in the yard this year. We’ve recently come out with two new books that will help.

Beds&Borderssmall Containerssmall

Both of these books feature plant-by-number plans for gardens that are sure to appeal to those who like a template to follow. Each plan lists how many plants of each type are needed, shows where to plant them in relation to the other plants, and has a picture of the gorgeous results you can get by following the plan. If you can follow a recipe, you can plant these gardens! If you’re more inclined to venture into uncharted territory, you’ll  find lots of inspiring plant combinations and ideas to incorporate into your own plans.

Both of these 224-page books are published by Wiley Publishing and retail for $19.95. They are available at major bookstores or you can purchase them online at Wiley Publishing or at Amazon.com. Here’s a link to details on Beds & Borders. And here are the details on Container Gardening.


The Creatures Were Stirring

Winter Scenes 008Winter Scenes 002All was quiet inside the McKeon house as we slumbered through the predawn hours of Christmas day. While reindeer danced through our dreams, white-tail deer partied the night away in our backyard. We awoke to, not the sound of hooves on the roof, but to the sight of tracks in freshly fallen snow. And to our wondering surprise, four does were lingering in the garden—a flower border planted last summer for birds and butterflies, not grazers.

We had no eyewitness accounts of rabbits, but dozens of telltale hopper trails were all the evidence we needed to prove that a family of cottontails was spending the holiday sleeping off their midnight meal in the cozy warren of our brush pile.

In the wild, deer and rabbits survive cold winters by nibbling on the tender branches from the previous year’s growing season. Called browsing, this method of search-and-devour is Mother Nature’s way of providing food for her flock and pruning crowded vegetation. For gardeners, however, losing plants to hungry critters can be a lot harder on the pocketbook than window shopping, the more common definition of browsing. If left unprotected, young trees and shrubs can be nibbled to nubbins in no time.

I’m all for creating backyard wildlife habitats. Selfishly, though, I like to protect my landscaping investments. The secret to a landscape that caters to both people and wildlife is to reach a respectful balance. I figure if I can successfully keep deer and rabbits from dining on new plantings for the first few years, the trees and shrubs will grow big and strong enough to tolerate a chewed-off branch here and there.

Many gardeners use barriers, such as cages made of stakes and chicken wire, to keep winter browsers at bay. This method is very effective, especially if you have just a few specimens to protect. For large numbers of trees and shrubs, a good alternative is one of the natural wildlife deterrents, such as Liquid Fence and Messina Wildlife Products. These manufacturers offer formulations for just about every critter. The trick is to apply them regularly (every 30 days) when temperatures are above the freezing mark.

What Earth-kind methods do you use to protect your plants from wildlife damage? We would love to hear from you!


Landscape to Save Energy

A little blizzard is rolling through Meredith headquarters (and much of the rest of the Midwest) as I write this; we’ve been blanketed with a good snowfall (it looked like about 18 inches as I shoveled this morning), there are strong 40-mph winds, and we have single-digit temperatures.

One consequence of this is it’s probably increasing my heating bill this month. Happily, though, I know some landscaping tricks that help save me money on my heating/cooling bills.

One is to plant a windbreak. While not a new concept (farmers have been doing it forever), an evergreen barrier on the north or east side of your property has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of heat that cold winter winds pull from your home.

If you don’t have the space for a windbreak, consider a berm. It can create a pocket of insulating air space around your home’s foundation. Plant on it and you’ve also created a little extra privacy in your landscape.

How much can it save you? Many experts say 5 to 25 percent, depending on a number of factors. Couple that with the fact that attractive landscaping adds to your home’s value, and it seems like a pretty good deal, eh?


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