When you begin your flower garden, there are a few things that you need to evaluate prior to any planning.
The amount of sunshine that the garden gets
If you have an area that is sunny, growing plants that are designated for that type of light requirement is a must for a strong hearty flower. Shade plants that are put in sunny locations will die or do poorly. The reverse is also true. There are plants that won’t even flower and will never be strong, if they live at all, in a shady area.
The amount of ground moisture and precipitation in your area
Each plant has a specific requirement and thirst. Some like to have their feet wet (heavy moisture, like next to a pond or marshy area.). Others will develop root rot when it is too moist. You can water in a dry climate, but it will be a battle all summer, but the best bet is finding plants that more closely match your environment.
This is just a level of alkaline or acid that the plant likes. A lot of pine trees and the decomposing matter will create an acidic condition. Lime and crushed limestone create an alkaline base. The scale to measure acidity and alkalinity goes from 1-14. Seven is neutral and below that is acidic. Anything above a seven is alkaline. Lemon juice is a 2 and garden lime is a 13. This is easily adjusted. Adding lime makes the soil more alkaline and adding Oak leaves, pine needles, and even coffee grounds will tip the scales toward acid. If you have a lot of pine trees, oak trees, or crushed limestone in the area, test your soil. Below a 6 and above a 7.5 may require additional measures taken. You can get a kit to test the soil at the garden center of your favorite store.
The length of bloom
If you want flowers all summer, you will need to either plant annuals or a mixture of perennials. We have a neighbor that is amazing. She grows the most beautiful garden of gladiolas. The garden encompasses half of her back yard and in bloom is magnificent. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, I find that glads are relatively difficult to maintain. (Maybe that’s just me.) She uses a hand tiller when planting the glads; which is also amazing. Oh, I forgot to tell you, she’s in her mid-80’s. I think about her every time I whine when my back hurts from bending over and planting. Yes, I immediately quit complaining.
Cutting or outdoor display?
Some plants are perfect for flower arrangements and others either don’t have the stem for it or die immediately after being cut. Choose wisely. Some wonderful perennials for cutting are Yarrow, Purple Coneflower (This is the Echinacea whose roots are used for kick starting your immune system), Delphinium, Bellflower, Foxglove (also known as Digitalis and is toxic), Liatris, Baby’s Breath, Iris, Chrysanthemum, Roses, and depending on the variety, Carnations. This is by no means all that is used for cutting, just a few of my favorites.
Once you have your land’s placement in the above categories, it is time to start planning.
Do you want a mass of color? Is monochromatic what you are looking for? Do you want to create a vivid picture from the flower’s color? I have seen an American flag that was created from annuals and it was breathtaking. Do you want a cottage garden or a formal one?
Seed packets and catalogs all have wonderful pictures of the plants that you will be growing. There usually isn’t any question about color or size. If you plan to gather seeds for planting the next fall, you never can be certain what color you will be getting. You can cross breed your own by transferring pollen with a q-tip. Be aware that you will have a strong urge for a cigarette immediately following.