Using Flowers in Your Landscape
Flowers can add a splash of color and a pleasing aroma to just about any outdoor space. They make you smile when you relax outdoors, or simply when you walk out to get the mail. But finding the best use for flowers in your landscape isn’t always simply as easy as picking some pretty colors and planting them wherever. There are many considerations to take into account when selecting and arranging the perfect flowers for your landscape. Here are a few to think about before you design and plant.
Annuals and PerennialsFlowers vary in more than just color. They also vary in terms of when, how long, and how often they bloom. And that can make a huge difference. Annuals complete their entire life cycle within a single year—they grow, bloom, and die between spring and winter. The downside, of course, is that you have to replant every year. But there are also some upsides. One, annuals tend to bloom for a long period of time—often months—so you get a lot of enjoyment from your flowers every season. Two, because you have to replant, it’s easy to change up your look from year to year. (Sick of your petunias? Plant begonias this year!) Perennials, by contrast, spring back year after year—by definition, for at least three years. (Some particularly hardy perennials can last over a decade!) The obvious upside is that you don’t have to replant them every season. However, perennials usually have a much shorter blooming period than annuals—perhaps as little as a week or two in some cases. For these reasons, annuals and perennials actually complement one another nicely, and many people prefer to plant both throughout their garden. That way, you always have a good combination of flowers in bloom that vary throughout the year.
Sunlight and WaterSome plants love to soak up all the sun they can possibly get. Others prefer shade for at least part of the day—if not all of it. Some plants are extremely thirsty, and really need the surrounding soil to be damp almost all the time. Others tolerate drought conditions quite admirably. When planting flowers, you should take care to place them in circumstances that will allow them to thrive. For example, let’s say you’re planning to plant along the sides of your home. If you’ve got some flowers that you know need full sun to thrive, put them along the south side (assuming you live in the northern hemisphere, of course), where they’ll be in full view of the sun from dawn till dusk. On the other hand, flowers that need partial shade will do better along the east or west, and flowers that need a lot of shade can hide to the north. Same goes for water tolerance. Simply put, you need to know which flowers need constant, regular watering and which ones don’t. Generally speaking, it’s not a good idea to mix really drought-tolerant plants (zinnias, for example) with flowers that need the soil to be moist all the time. You may or may not be able to keep both alive, but probably not in a way that allows both to thrive. You’ll either drown one or starve the other! One other thing to note—even things like soil composition, elevation changes, drainage, placement of features such as retaining walls or pathways, etc. can influence which plants are likely to do well in a given place within your yard.
Native and Non-NativeConstructing gardens exclusively with native plants and flowers is a growing trend. And there are some pretty good reasons to go with native flowers. For one, there’s no guesswork involved with native flowers. You already know that they’re well adapted to the soil, sunlight, water, and climate conditions. Growing native plants is also a responsible way to, at least in one small way, reduce the impact of habitat loss and support the existing ecosystem, including the local insects, birds, and other wildlife that depend on them. Plus, using only native plants can give you a big sense of local pride! Non-native flowers, by contrast, might not respond as well to growing conditions or be as attractive to local wildlife. A small minority of non-native plants have also become invasive and damaged the ecosystems where they’ve been introduced. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean all non-native plants are harmful, or that you shouldn’t ever use them. Many foreign plants have integrated seamlessly into their new environments and greatly benefit the local ecosystem. Plus, they can be uniquely beautiful! That said, the mix of native vs. non-native flower species is something definitely worth considering. While we believe that planting native species is extremely important and should probably be the “backbone” of your flower garden, we can help you select from a handful of beautiful “outsiders” that can add a little variety without threatening the surrounding environment.
What Do You Want Your Garden to Be?The landscape isn’t quite a blank canvas. You’re probably not going to dramatically change the position of your home or outbuildings, for example, or change the natural slope of the terrain. Yet still, the possibilities are immense—if not quite endless. So what do you want your outdoor space to be? A quiet refuge from the busy world? A place for children to run and play? A gathering spot for friends and neighbors? And what are your aesthetic tastes? Straight lines or gentle curves? Traditional or contemporary? What are your favorite colors? Like we said, designing the perfect garden isn’t quite as simple as picking something pretty at the greenhouse and putting it in the ground … somewhere. It takes a bit of knowledge. It takes careful planning. It requires meticulous care. That’s, of course, where we come in. We delight in helping make the yard, garden, or flower bed of your dreams into a reality. We can help you right from the design phase, including laying out a beautiful and practical environment and picking the perfect flowers, shrubs, hedges, and other natural (and manmade!) elements. For more information, or to talk about landscaping options with one of our professionals, please give Bosch’s Landscape and Lawn Specialties a call today at (616) 399-6861. Our estimates are free!
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