Flower Power, by Duane Campbell
There is a breed of gardener, much in evidence these days that believes less is more. They disdain any plant that flowers for more than three days a year or has blooms more than a quarter inch across, preferably in almost invisible shades of anemic mauve and palest blue.
I hate to dispute these gardeners, but I checked my dictionary. Less is still less. MORE is more. Translated into flower, that means big, bright, and bold. I may have no taste, but boy, do I have color. Annuals or perennials, trees or bulbs, all have a place in my garden as long as they jump out from a block away.
There are two ways to plant for color. Most popular is the plunk-’em-in-the-ground-and-wait method. This involves digging a small hole in whatever passes for soil, stuffing the plant in it, and hurrying back inside. When you come back a few months later there may be flowers. A few. Maybe.
The other method follows the three S’s: soil, site and care. OK, that’s two S’s and a C, but you get the idea. What it all means, I’m sorry to say, is effort.
Dilettantes think a gardener works with plants. Gardeners know that they work with soil. And that soil seldom comes just the way they want it. You must dig in all the organic matter you can find – compost, leaves, sawdust, and ground bark. And dig it in deep. How much is enough? When you say, “That’s enough; I’ve had it,” it’s still not enough, but it will have to be.
Once you’ve done right by your soil, you can still botch the job by putting a plant in the wrong spot. Determining the right site requires investigating two things: what the plant needs and what you have.
Hostas and azaleas and impatiens like some degree of shade; petunias and roses and lilacs like a lot of sun. But how much shade is too much, and how little sun can you get away with? A trip to the library is in order. Check at least a dozen authoritative books, preferably by authors, who discuss the plants, not just give you a symbol or chart. You won’t get bored; they’ll all say something different. But you start to get a feel beyond the scant information on the plant tag.
That, however, is not enough; you must also understand your yard. If you observe carefully, that spot you thought was in full sun is actually shaded by the garage in the morning and a tree in mid afternoon. Or that shade spot may see some sun before you get up in the morning. To complicate things, a flowerbed that has direct sun from dawn to dusk in March may be shaded half the day in June. (Remember, the sun moves.) Get familiar with your property and its seasons.
The third S, care, is simple if you get the soil and site right. A plant that is happy will largely take care of itself. Mulch to keep the weeds down and the water in, fertilize occasionally, and remove spent flowers. But for a gardener, that’s not work, it’s recreation. The technical horticultural term is “puttering.”
If you do all this, you will have the biggest and best flowers possible without magic. But why stop there? You’ve gone this far; use a little magic, too. Spray-N-Grow can make the best even better.
Years ago I picked up a sample of Spray-N-Grow at a trade show. I was skeptical – to put it nicely – but, what the hey, the stuff was free, and I am a Scot. So I tried it on a large potted hibiscus. This plant usually had four or five blossoms at a time during the summer, and then stopped blooming when I brought it in for the winter. That year it had fifteen flowers in mid-December. That got my attention.
The next season I sprayed exuberantly. Beans collapsed under their own weight and lettuce refused to bolt. Peonies planted the fall before bloomed the first season, which they seldom do. Same with a redbud tree. And an apple tree planted during the January thaw bore fruit that same fall.
That was four years ago. Now I spray everything, vegetables and flowers, indoors and out. I even spray those prissy perennials that more tasteful gardeners like so much, and they cover themselves with brazen color. Tacky, maybe, but I love it. After all that work planting things right, Spray-N-Grow makes sure the results are worth the effort.