Last October, Left Hand of Dorkness and I bought a house with a good-ish sized yard. We’ve planted a great little vegetable garden and plan to expand that next summer. I’d also like to plant some flowers to spruce things up a bit. There were already some irises and hostas here when we moved in, and I definitely want to plant daffodils–they’re my favorite flower. Beyond that, I’m open to any and all advice for what to do with our yard.
To keep in mind, we both work full-time and are not interested in devoting all our spare time to gardening. We also don’t have a ton of money to spend on this, so cheap and hearty are good qualities.
Enlighten me, Dopers! Share your success stories and cautionary tales.
If you both work full time sounds like maybe you need to do a lot of perennials, or at least stuff which re-seeds. If you already have a veggie garden growing, you must be aware of how much sun and watering is needed. Irises need sun and hostas don’t, so I assume you have both sun and shade?
Start with this little primer:
Some nice sun plants which are either perennial or re-seed:
Morning glories (morning sun, climbs, can be invasive but not hard to control)
penstemon (flowers,many varieties)
nicotiana (not the hybrid, the original: tall and fragrant, white flowers)
thyme (many varieties)
sunflowers (put 'em in the back)
Jupiter’s beard (pretty but very invasive, pink and white and maybe more)
all sorts of herbs, lavender is very pretty and fragrant but gets big
sun, part shade:
sweet woodruff (nice shade groundcover, can take sun but needs water, fragrant)
gentian (startling blue flowers, small but assertive)
hyssop (attracts hummingbirds)
butterfly bush (gets big, attracts you know what)
Japanese painted fern (very nice foliage)
Japanese blood grass (gorgeous foliage) Many cool grasses to try actually…
phlox (many kinds, tall and small)
Sunflowers attract lots of songbirds–cardinals in particular love them. You can plant a variety, ranging from mammoths to some of the smaller kinds like the lemon yellow or maroon ones. They might need a bit of water to begin with but they take care of themselves once they get bigger.
Coxcomb is a tall burgundy colored plant with a shaggy sort of plume on top and it might do well in your area. Zinnias and marigolds grow just about anywhere and attract a lot of butterflies. Coleus is a good border plant with many different colors. All these are annuals.
Lambs Ear is a perennial with fuzzy silver gray leaves and as far as I know it’s suitable for many different areas.
Gardening catalogs usually have a guide map of climate zones and for each plant they will indicate what climate it does best in. They should also indicate what type of soil a plant needs and how much sun or shade it can take.
I plant my vegetables in my flower garden (or as my husband says, there’s flowers in his vegetable garden). The flowers help fill in when the garden plants are starting to look sorry.
Perennials are good anchor plants, but I believe every garden also needs annuals. Perennials usually have a short bloom time but annuals will bloom all summer long. Easy annuals are marigolds (if you like oranges/reds) or petunias (if you like pinks/purples/whites).
Consider what kinds of plants grow well together. For example, I have a climbing clematis. Clematis likes to have it’s roots shaded so at the base of the plant, I planted tall phlox. Makes for a beautiful display mid summer.
My biggest piece of advice is don’t make such a production out of it. With only a few basic rules, you can try anything. Try to select plants that are grown for your geographical region. If you like it, plant it. If it doesn’t work out, then move on to the next one. If you fret about the decision too much, you’ll never make a decision.
Spring Hill Nursery puts together plant combinations for sun and for shade based on colors, fragrance, etc. (link). Their website looks very friendly for tyros – I note they have one labeled “garden, easy-care, sun.”