Friday, January 4, 2008

You can grow flowers too

If you have sun in your garden, anyone can grow flowers. I had an ever-increasing patch of dandelions on the front lawn. It was becoming embarrassing as we don't spray herbicides unlike many of our neighbours.

Above: Cleome, Dahlia, Delphinium and Rudbeckia nitida

So I dug up most of those dandelions and made a flower bed about 25ft long by maybe 8ft deep at its widest. Basically it's shaped like a big smile across the front of the property.

Its finished shape is exactly what I wanted, but I went about it tactically, shall I say. I knew if I'd started it in the middle of the bed and worked outwards, my husband would have complained long before I got to my final size. So instead I started digging at the left hand side, and then worked on the right hand side, effectively making two odd looking beds at the front. This way I just had to keep on digging till I got to the middle, and there was no argument.

In fact it looked pretty horrible that first summer, as you can see in this pic to the right, but it's a lot of digging for a woman with two little kids, so it took me all summer. By the frost I still hadn't finished and had to complete the digging in April 2006. I had a cubic yard of composted horse manure delivered and put it all out on this new bed.

I selected plants based on their flowering season, how long the flowers lasted and threw in my all-time favourites for good measure. It's mostly a perennial bed (I can't be bothered planting the whole thing year after year) but I have some annuals too. I made sure they were all going to be good for cut flowers in case I wanted to bring any in to enjoy as well. Previously I'd had one small bed maybe 8ft by 4ft, so this was a pretty big canvas. I did spend a lot of time planning, but then that went out the window when I saw something good on sale at the Loblaws garden centre.

When I began this bed in July 2005 (what was I thinking! Digging in the Ottawa heat! Crazy English woman) I knew it was going to be a big undertaking and a lot of planting. I had no idea if it would really work, or just look like a mess created by someone having a bash at gardening. I'm glad it was a success.

I think my neighbours thought I was mad to dig such a large bed in the first place. But that summer people would stop and look at the flowers, just taking it all in.

The finished flowerbed in 2006 - its first year as the bed I'd imagined

I find the flowerbed less work than fighting with dandelions. Gardening should be about enjoying what you're growing, not fighting the stuff you don't want. There's no enjoyment in digging out dandelions. I tried passing the time with it by counting those little suckers as I chucked them into a yard waste sack. Even when I was getting up there to the 300 mark it wasn't any fun - there's always more of them.
Now we mow them and I try to look past them and see the flowers I want to grow instead.

Rudbeckia 'Indian Summer'

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