Friday, December 14, 2007

Garden Planning Before the Catalogs Arrive

In the winter, the garden looks so bare that despite the pictures I've taken from the growing season it's hard to believe that it will all spring back again as full as it was. By January, my memories are clouded and I find myself circling way too many 'must buy' plants for the spring. Beguiled by the beautiful pictures and descriptions, in April you can find me on my porch surrounded by boxes of precious cargo wondering "Where am I going to put all of these?" In addition, I can't help but make forays to the local nurseries adding to my conundrum.

So, last winter I formed a plan to review all the pictures and notes I took during the year. This helped me see gaps in the plantings and under performers. It also reminds me of areas that I can layer the plantings to extend the show. For example, oriental poppies take up a lot of space, but bloom for only a short time and their leaves die back soon afterward. So, I cut the leaves back after they bloomed and plant Abyssinian glads around them. In mid July, the Abyssinian glads begin to bloom. By the time the poppies reemerge in the fall, the glads are ready to be dug up for the winter.

I love to cut flowers to bring in the house or give as gifts. At this time I also think about what plants did I wish I had more of or were there times when I didn't have much for cutting. I also keep track of where I like to plant dahlias and glads which are great cut flowers and add beauty to the garden.

Pictures also help to jog my memory as to where self seeders will fill in the garden, so I don't order plants expecting them to take spaces I've reserved for nature's gifts. In many of my gardens I allow one self seeder to provide an accent: in the front border it's verbena bonariensis; Queen Anne's lace in the Cutting Garden; around the oak in the front garden its cerinthe major; forget-me-nots in the Bird Garden; and annual black eyed susans in the Egg Garden.

Every year I have movers and those to be removed. The movers are either unhappy where they are; I don't like where they are; or their neighbors don't like them. These are listed and I note where they are moving to so that I don't re allot that space to a new purchase. Plants which will be divided are put on this list too because some of the divisions can be used to fill empty areas. Under performers or plants tried, but not liked, are slotted for removal.

At this point I should have a good list of planting spots to think about as I approach my spring order. From then on I keep a master list of all my orders and exactly where they are going. Once the boxes arrive it is quick and easy to plant them where they belong and I can prepare the planting areas ahead of time. This system works pretty well. Yet, there's always room for one more.

How do you plan your ordering? Please share any ideas that you have.

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