10 Ways to Conquer Your Fear of Gardening

You might not believe it, but you were born with a green thumb. It may have gone untended for a while, but it's there waiting for you to nudge it awake. Put away your theory of being a plant killer, that anything dies under your care. Forget those nagging thoughts of where your garden will live or when you'll find the time, it's there somewhere. It doesn't have to cost a fortune and you'll get more than you give. So, here are 10 tips for conquering your fear of gardening:

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A Colorful Cottage Garden

This Midwestern gardener created a beautiful cottage-style landscape in a small space.

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    Everything in this slideshow

    • Create Curb Appeal

      The Mendelsons created a cute, cottage-style entrance to their Missouri landscape with a rose-covered arbor over a flagstone path. Foxgloves (Digitalis), pink primrose (Oenothera), and peonies add a soft, romantic feel up front, and a lush green lawn creates a welcoming carpet beyond.

      Test Garden Tip: While rose-covered arbors are beautiful, be sure to select climbing roses suited to your climate. Not all varieties do well in tough Midwestern winters.

    • Be Playful

      The Mendelsons created a sidewalk garden to cheer passersby. The white picket fence and old-fashioned hollyhocks are a perfect way to continue the cottage theme. Because of the charming landscape, neighbors often stop by and talk to the Mendelsons as they work.

      Test Garden Tip: Raising your sidewalk garden a couple of feet with a stone retaining wall like the Mendelsons did will help increase privacy. But because of the charming nature of the fence and plants, your yard won't feel cold and uninviting.

    • Find Inspiration

      Inspired by books such as The Secret Garden, the Mendelsons continued their garden around their garage. An antique lawn chair fits right in with yellow lilies, peach daylilies, white Queen Anne's lace, and pink perennial sweet pea.

      Test Garden Tip: Plant selection can play a big role in your garden's theme. The Mendelsons created a lush cottage feel and used lots of old-time plants. Consider your plants and how they fit with your garden style.

    • Create Vignettes

      It's easy to get caught up thinking about your garden in a big-picture sort of way. But the Mendelsons didn't overlook the details. By adding subtle touches like this old chair, basket, and terra-cotta containers, they've added a sense of intimacy to their yard.

      Test Garden Tip: Include vignettes in your yard. They can be anything that reflects you and your personal style -- from a piece of garden art to your favorite plant combination.

    • Include Fragrance

      What's a garden without a sweet scent? The Mendelsons included lots of their favorite fragrant plants in their garden, including this dwarf lilac.

      Test Garden Tip: Take care not to mix too many fragrant flowers together. Not all scents smell wonderful in combination with others.

    • Cottage Garden Tips and Tricks

      Get inspired to create your own cottage garden with these easy ideas.

    • Select the Right Plants

      Because of their small yard, the Mendelsons chose a relatively small number of kinds of plants. One favorite is dame's rocket (Hesperis matronalis). Though it looks like phlox, this sweetly scented biennial is actually more closely related to cabbage and blooms in early summer.

      Test Garden Tip: Like many cottage-garden plants, dame's rocket self seeds. So even though it's a biennial, new plants will reliably come back every year if you let them drop a few seeds.

    • Put It All Together

      The Mendelsons didn't waste their side yard; the narrow, unused space became a part of the garden thanks to a collection of beautiful, low-care perennials and a simple white gate and arbor.

      Test Garden Tip: Side yards can be a great place to tuck in a few more of your favorite garden plants. And a dense planting of perennials can help provide more privacy from the house next door -- especially if it's situated close to yours.

    • Rose 'New Dawn'

      'New Dawn' is a popular climbing rose and a great choice for many Midwestern gardens. The soft-pink blooms repeat throughout the season and bear a wonderful fragrance. It's hardy in Zones 5-9.

      Test Garden Tip: Not all roses are suited to all climates. Pick carefully so you don't have to put in a ton of work babying a difficult plant for your area.

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      Rose 'Zephirine Drouhin'

      While 'New Dawn' rose graces the arbor leading to the back yard, it's 'Zephirine Drouhin' on the pergola out front. This heirloom from the 1860s is still popular today. It blooms throughout the season with sweetly scented, cerise-pink blooms. Zones 5-9.

      Test Garden Tip: 'Zephrine Drouhin' is an especially good choice for front yards because the stems have few thorns. In fact, this rose has earned the nickname "the thornless rose."

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      Create Beautiful Plant Combinations

      The 'Zephirine Drouhin' rose is a perfect plant partner for a collection of pink foxgloves. Tall bearded iris, perennial geranium, and 'Annabelle' hydrangeas complete the look.

      Test Garden Tip: Bloom time and color aren't the only considerations when making great plant combinations. Also take a look at texture. For example, notice how the Mendelsons combined the spiky, upright form of the foxglove to lead the eye up the arbor where the roses are.

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      Just Add Water

      Just past the garage, the Mendelsons added a small pond with a stream. A pump recirculates the water from the end of the stream back to the waterfall. It's become a great place to relax and enjoy birds, which are drawn to the water.

      Test Garden Tip: Moving water helps keep mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water feature. A few small fish also help keep mosquitoes from being a problem.

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      Next Slideshow Design Lessons from a Minnesota Shade Garden

      Design Lessons from a Minnesota Shade Garden

      Get ideas for making your yard more beautiful with tips from a self-taught gardener.
      Begin Slideshow »

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