|Great gardens begin with great plants and a great plan
It's that simple.
We know of so many Catholics, parish gardeners included, who start out each spring with great enthusiasm only to find that in mid-summer their gardens have turned to a weedy, dried up mess.
We dream of this:
But end up with this:
What happened? For a start, most of us lack a plan - known as succession planting - to keep their gardens bright with blossoms from early spring through the first frost. Poor placement and overcrowding are another issue that can be overcome with a little forethought.
A second problem has to do with choosing bargain basement plants that seem economical at first, but quickly show their poor quality in leggy growth, dropped leaves and blossom rot.
Most of our readers want to gear their gardens around a shrine of some sort or, if they're more ambitious, with a Marian or Biblical theme. We've put together some lists that will help you to get a head start on your garden for next year, while adding fall blooming plants that will thrive year after year.
Don't waste time.
Foolproof Garden Plans
Need a Quick and Easy Fundraising Idea?
Click on Fundraising at the site below.
The Madonna Lily
Excellent for cut flowers
The Madonna Lily has been known throughout history as a religious symbol, a source of inspiration and an unchallenged prize in any garden. For generations, it has been a favorite, bursting into bloom each year with a virtual bouquet of 15-20 flowers per plant.
Featuring very fragrant, pristine white petals, this lily has been considered a symbol of sweetness and purity since it was first cultivated in medieval times.
Hint: Don't toss or give away those beautiful Easter Lilies once their blossoms have faded. Snip them down to about 6" above the soil and plant them in a cluster - maybe around a statue of Our Lady. They will bloom again around the Feast of the Assumption!
Flowers for the Parish
and Home Altar
If your parish is like our former parish, the only time we seem to have fresh flowers in the Church is when the funeral director leaves them behind after someone dies - or if there's a wedding and they don't take the flowers with them. The rest of the year we must endure horrid plastic plants that never seem to get dusted. Fresh flowers are simply too expensive to have on a regular basis considering all the other pressing needs of the parish. With a little planning and some enthusiastic volunteers, your parish can have it's own cutting garden to ensure that there are beautiful fragrant blossoms for most of the year.
One easy solution is the flower mat. Roll it out, water it, and voila! you have cut flowers for the whole season. Find this on our resource page.
Hint: While we all love cut flowers there's nothing appealing about flowers with bugs crawling all over them. The best bet is to keep a small spray bottle on hand with a half teaspoon of dish washing detergent added in. Remove all lower leaves and spray the flowers and stems with the mixture. Then, with a gentle spray (outside, please!) rinse them off.
|When a Bargain Isn't A Bargain
Let's face it. With few exceptions most of us are on a budget when it comes to filling our gardens with a profusion of blooms.
Annuals are the route that many take. The little plants that come in cell packs are relatively inexpensive in the short run, but in the long run they cost much more when you look at a year-after-year investment because they last just one season. While they certainly have their place in the flower garden to provide a fill in for added color, in the long run, they're just not cost effective.
Hint: If you plant marigolds or zinnias, keep dead heading for more blossoms. Pinch off the dead, dried flowers and open them, sprinkling the seeds on the ground. They'll bloom next year.
Perennials, bulbs, tubers and shrubs, are a long lasting solution, but one that can represent a significant investment initially if you buy full sized plants, but that are a bargain if you buy them now to grow into adult plants that will last for years.
Some gardeners have the luxury of lots of space to start plants from cuttings and seeds. Always a satisfying method for those who know how, it is one that also requires a lot of time, effort and knowledge to do successfully.
Others are fortunate to have friends and family who share their passion for gardening. As wonderful as shared plants can be, they can harbor unseen problems: invasive weeds or destructive pests are common - like the iris borer shown above.
A few years ago my sister and her son owned a small nursery and sold their goods at the organic Green Market at the World Trade Center. When it was destroyed, they closed shop and eventually gave away much of their stock. I was the happy recipient of a huge bunch of beautiful plants that came with an unexpected gift: a fungus that killed my lawn.
(Who could have guessed that my sister actually reads my website! She wasn't too happy with about this paragraph.)
There was an upside to this story. With the lawn dead and gone, it was easier to turn the area into a vegetable garden.
If you're not quite so easy going about your lawn or garden, check all plants to be sure nothing unpleasant hitches a ride to your home. Or rely on garden centers. The big outlets, like Home Depot don't always take care of plants properly, and you may find their offerings to be dried out or leggy. Professional garden centers will have healthier plants, but they are ghastly expensive.
Here are the sources we've found that offer great bargains