7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Growing Flowers

I can't turn back time, but if I could, here’s what I would say to the me that was starting out creating my cutting garden years ago:

Plant more trees and shrubs

All I grew in the beginning was annuals. Then I started adding in perennials. What I wish I had done from day 1 was plant a few large trees (think magnolia, dogwood, katsura) and shrubs (think lilac, spirea, nine bark). Materials from these sorts of plants can really make your arrangements come alive. You can never have too much!

Feed the garden, not the plants

Yup, I said it. You don’t need to worry so much about feeding your individual plants; and you need to worry even less about the feeding requirements of individual species. If you instead switch your focus to feeding the soil and supporting the overall garden ecosystem, the plants will take care of themselves. 

Create raised beds

If you have clay, you should grow in raised beds. It will extend your season and make your gardening much easier. Doing this has let me overwinter my dahlia tubers in the ground, in addition to a bunch of other benefits. 

Incorporate a bit of design ethos

Let’s say you’re ordered 70 peony tubers. Instead of planting them all in one big bed by themselves, spread them throughout the garden, intermingle them with your other flowers. This way, you’ll create a more beautiful garden, and if your sun exposure varies through your garden, you will also have peonies blooming at different times ;)

Don’t buy too much all at once

It’s great if your supplier gives you a good deal, or you get seduced by that flat of scented geraniums, but trust me, if you didn’t set out to buy it, and aren’t sure if you have room for it, don’t do it! Wait till you know you have a good, ready - to - plant spot. 

Aim for diversity in plant selection

Instead of getting 12 Sarah Bernhardt peonies, get 3 Sarah Bernhardt’s, 3 Coral Charm’s and 3 Jan van Leeuwen's. And better yet, choose varieties that will bloom at different times; such as early, mid and late blooming bearded iris. 

Schedule in your “Martha Stewart” days

I hate to break it to you but you need a lot of time to do the boring stuff that will let you revel in glorious blooms down the road - checking your irrigation and cleaning filters, cleaning your tools and buckets, maintaining your pathways, building compost piles (actually this is quite fun), not to mention the gripping task of weeding. Designate an hour or two each week to what Farmer Shellie calls her “Martha Stewart” days, and I promise, you will be rewarded.