Spring is in the air, and it's time to green our thumbs. According to the Garden Media Group (gardenmediagroup.com), more and more of us are doing just that in a "grow-it-yourself" movement fueled by an expanding awareness of the environmental and it simple being a sound way to stretch the dollar when it comes to creating a haven for ourselves (as opposed to paying someone to do it for us). The trends this year show a renewed interest in perennials, quick and simple gardens (container gardens), bold color, and blended gardens that weave vegetables and herbs into ornamental schemes.
I've been paging through my garden journal and poring over wishbooks and web sites that picture the prettiest new flowers and vegetables for months to plan this season's garden. Nurseries and garden centers are bursting with multicolored vegetables, compact container varieties, flavorful heirlooms, fragrant flowers and fanciful foliage. Here are my picks for spring.
On a personal note, since blue is my favorite color, I'll find a place for Oceana Blue salvia, a bushy, drought-tolerant annual with deep gentian blue blooms that attracts butterflies and resists deer damage. Trellised on the greenhouse, Stolwijk Gold, a clematis with chartreuse foliage and nodding blue blossoms will provide the perfect backdrop for the salvia. Because I'm trying to transform my flowerbeds into butterfly havens, I'll add Tomato Soup coneflower, an echinacea with spicy scarlet blossoms. Cranberry Isle nicotiana, an heirloom flowering tobacco, will perfume my garden in the evening with its intoxicating scent.
For plants that prefer shaded spots (and we all have them), try Dark Chocolate coleus, which promises rich purple foliage that looks almost chocolate. For contrast, plant Scentsation Mixed tuberous begonias that blossom into fragrant pastel flowers and Big Rose with the golf-ball-sized blooms of Bronze Leaf fibrous begonias.
For containers that get a lot of sun, combine sturdy and long-blossoming Sassy White agyranthemums with Vista Bubblegum supertunias. Their clear pink flowers are long-lasting and floriferous. Use Tuscany verbena in burgundy with white eyes for a filler.
I need plants that prefer wet feet for my bog garden, and Coffee Cups colocasia, a new elephant ear taro with cupped, dark olive leaves and purple-black stems, is the perfect selection. As its leaves fill with water, the stems give way just enough for the leaf to dump its catch before refilling. If the plant isn't hardy in your region, dry and store the tubers over the winter.
Two succulents caught my eye, and they'll carry my garden through summer and and then spend winter in a sunny window. Reminiscent of undersea coral reefs, Red Glo echeveria has waxy leaves with blazing crimson ruffled edges. Pink Blush aloe is a stiff, fleshy plant with a multi-dimensional appearance—the dark green foliage is scored with raised, golden dashes, and light pink, toothed ridges edge each leaf.
Like many in this difficult economy, we'll increase the size of our vegetable garden this year to offset trips to the grocery store. Chioggia Guardsmark beets, with bulls-eye rings of red and white, and Veronica Romanesco, a lime-green Italian cauliflower with heads of beaded, spiral-like domes, will add a bit of color. Advertised as edible landscaping, Neon Glow Swiss chards magenta and gold stalks make a great garden border, and the leaves are sweet and mild. To feed the birds and frame the bed, tall Van Gogh sunflowers are a picture-pretty.
Graffiti cauliflower tempts me with large heads that need sunshine to achieve their deep purple color. Goosebumps pumpkins add a touch of whimsy with their warty skins and acorn squash is a household favorite, so I'll try the 2009 All America Selections Honey Bear this season. Touted as "personal-sized," the fruit should be just right for two diners, and the compact plants save space. For the first time ever, a tasty and juicy seedless tomato is available, so I'll also be growing Sweet Seedless, which is a perfect combination.
Want to create a garden worthy of your log home? Check out this list of the best hydrangeas for your garden.