Gardening 101

Choosing Your Plants

What is the difference between an annual, perennial, & biennial?
Annuals complete their life span in one growing season and will not return again. Perennials have the longest life span, living for more than two years. They die down in winter but will rebloom again the following season. Biennials complete their life span in two growing seasons. They will usually produce leafy growth during the first year and flowers & fruit the second year. After fruiting, plants will usually die and will not return again, unless seeds from pods produced are resown.

Things to consider when choosing plants:
Tall plants should form the background of your garden, medium plants should form the middle, and shortest plants should form the front border or path edge of your garden.

It is important to pay attention to the spacing of plants in your garden. Please consult your plant label for this information – it will tell you the amount of room a plant will need as it matures and spreads in the garden.

Please consult your plant label for this information. Depending on the site exposure in your garden, (Sun, Shade, Part Sun, Part Shade) you will want to make sure and select plants that will perform well in your site.

Bloom Time
Perennials feature different bloom times – some early, some late, and some bloom all season long. You want to consider this when planning your garden so you have some plants in bloom all season long. For example, there are some early flowering perennials such as Dicentra that will bloom and completely die back by summer. These should be used as underplantings to later blooming perennials.

Bloom Color
Typically, primary or contrasting colors (bold hues) should be planted in small masses and harmonious colors (pastel hues) should be planted in larger masses. A basic design principle is to group plants together in odd numbers such as 3, 5, 7, 9, etc. Remember to consider that bloom time will also affect the color show of your garden.

Selecting Your Site

Site Exposure
It is important to evaluate your planting site to determine what kind of exposure you have: Sun, Part Sun, Shade, or Part Shade. Also, keep in mind that you may have certain areas in your yard that have seasonal shade, such as in the summer when deciduous trees are in full leaf. You can take advantage of this by planting early blooming perennials in these areas. They will grow & finish blooming by the time the trees produce their leafy shade canopy.


Determine the climate of your planting site: Is it a dry area best suited to drought tolerant perennials?
Simply go to our Native Plant Sale section and look for plants with a full sun light tolerance and/or a dry moisture requirement as these generally indicate drought tolerant perennials.

Is it a wet / boggy area best suited to perennials that do well in moist soils?
Check out our Native Plant Sale section and look for plants with a medium/wet listing as they do well in moist soils.

Where do prevailing winds enter the site? Will plants require protection or staking?
Typically in our area, summer breezes come for the southwest and winter winds from the northwest. Prevailing northwinds into your site will produce a cooling effect on plants, so you may need to consider planting a wind break (such as evergreen shrubs) for protection. Also, plants may require staking in windy areas – you may want to consider using lower growing plants in this situation.

Site Location

Where are the views to the garden from the house?
You want to make sure these will be pleasing, unobstructed views.

Where are utilities located?
It is important before you begin any planting to know where utilities are located in your yard. There are local services that can help you identify these areas – check your phone book or call your local village or building department.

Site Analysis

Is your site flat, rocky, or sloping?
In flat sites, you will experience drainage problems. You will need to create a berm or some sort of drainage so water will be able to run off. Also, it is important to have well amended soil in this type of site. For rocky areas, you will also need good drainage, as plants are typically shallow-rooted.  For sloping sites, you will need to create a retaining wall and plant on the upper tier.

Are there existing trees & plants that can have an affect on your garden?
It is important to think about how these can affect your garden site. Do they produce shade in areas of your garden? Do they have special soil/water requirements, such as a pines, spruces & rhododendrons which require an acidic soil? Do they have established root systems that can be damaged by additional planting?

Consider the floor plan of your house – will the garden site be easily accessible?
Evaluate the flow from the house into your garden. Does a path or steps need to be created to access it?

Garden Style

Take into consideration the style of your house when planning your garden – is it traditional, victorian, or modern? It is important to create a garden style that will complement the existing architecture of your house.

Are you interested in creating a themed garden, such as a Butterfly, Hummingbird, or Native Garden?
Check out our Native Plant Sale page and click on the links to see complete listings of plants for these types of gardens.

Planting perennials in your garden
Dig a planting hole that is 1 ¸” times wider and deeper than the root ball of your plant. Lightly tap or squeeze pot to release plant. Gently pinch the bottom roots, which in turn will encourage roots to spread and take hold in the ground. Place plant in hole so that crown is even with ground soil level. Place a slow release fertilizer in planting hole around root ball. Water plant in hole and backfill with soil. Gently tap down soil around crown to remove any air pockets. Apply a mulch layer for weed control and to provide more even water absorption. Water plant thoroughly. See watering instructions below for requirements pertaining to the development of new plants.

Insects & Diseases
Slugs, aphids, whiteflies and thrips are insects common to perennials. Botrytis, powdery mildew and leaf spots are diseases that are common to perennials. Go to your local garden retailer and check the labels on chemicals to treat your specific problem. If you have children or small animals and are concerned with using chemicals or pesticides, there are some organic products available to treat various pests & diseases. Review labels carefully!