Gardening Questions

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"Without a doubt they are the best looking plants that I have ever gotten from anyone!"


I've noticed over the years that some basic gardening questions come up time and time again. I am posting below samples of the six most prevalent questions that I receive. My answers are based on my own experience. Of course, no two gardens are alike, but perhaps my solutions or suggestions will be of help or have some relevance in your own garden. If you want to know more about a particular plant I've mentioned, just click on it and it will take you to the description I have in the catalog. Best wishes,

Amanda Shenstone

Deer problems | The shady garden | The hot and dry garden | I'm a beginner...| Soil prep

Q. The deer seem to think, I have planted my garden solely for their gastronomic pleasure. Is there anything they won't eat?

A. There is hope! Deer seem to shy away from plants that have strongly scented foliage. I would try plants like Lavender, Monarda (Bee balm), The Salvias (annual or perennial), Achillea (Yarrow), Nepeta, Thyme, Calendula, and Cleome. Other plants that I've noticed they leave alone, but I don't know why, are Aquilegia (Columbine), and Centaurea. Despite herds of deer on our property, we don't get much damage to our flower garden. It may be because so many of these plants are mixed throughout the garden. Our dogs Lily and Scooter help, too!


Q. I have large trees that shade much of my yard during different times of the day. What plants work best in the shade?

A. Shady areas present a number of challenges. Most plants need at least some light and dense dark areas are not my expertise. But if your area is getting some light filtered through trees or an hour or so of direct light, there are some plants that can liven up the area. One of my favorites is Alchemilla (Lady's Mantle). Its chartreuse flowers and the way the leaves collect glittering dew drops make it a gem. Aquilegia's (Columbine) grow in all kinds of conditions from bright light to the rocky damp gorges that are so prevalent in our area. Other low growing shade tolerant plants include Primroses, and Violas. For height, try Digitalis, Lobelia, and Monarda. Our Dappled Shade collection includes most of these plants.

Q. We keep having hot dry summers. Which plants hold up to this onslaught the best?

A. There are some plants that handle the heat well and we've certainly had a few years here at our home to test out the toughest. Here's my list of favorites: Achillea (Yarrow), Hollyhocks, Echinops, Liatris, Malva, Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Shasta Daisy, Salvia Supurba, Datura,and Heliotrope.

Q. I love the garden but realistically I don't have a lot of time to take care of it. When I do have time I would rather be enjoying the results. Any suggestion for an easy to care for garden?

Keep it simple!! I would choose three or four types of plants, each with a different bloom time. Buy a full tray of each kind so you have lots of material to work work with; it will fill in quickly and there will be less weeds. Good combinations would be Digitalis, Heliopsis, Echinacea and Salvia. Or Poppies, Lupines, Campanulas, and Rudbeckia. Later when you have more time again, you can always add other varieties! You will still have to do the initial work of preparing the soil well (deep digging and lots of compost) but if done right you won't have to do it again for a very long time.

Q.I'm new at gardening and love the way Cottage Gardens look. Where do I start?

A. Well, of course just about any plant in our catalog that catches your fancy will work, but as a novice you may find the Cottage Garden collection a good place to start. When making up the collection I only choose my favorite plants and colors and the ones that I know would be the easiest for a novice gardener to grow. The collection has all the cottage garden classics in it like Delphiniums, Digitalis, and Lupines.

Q. What do you do to your soil to make the garden flourish?

The more organic matter in your soil the better. High organic matter (i.e.. compost, manures, etc.) means the plant roots will find the nutrients and water they need and the roots can spread easily. This type of soil holds moisture well in dry spells, but it will also drain well during the wet spells. It's the best of both worlds which is why we want it! The best way to prepare your beds is to turn the soil over as deeply as you can (8-12 inches) and add lots of compost or rotted manure. If you are lucky you can find this for free from a nearby farm or you can buy it by the truck load. Mix it in your ground well. When my beds are done, they are usually a few inches higher then the ground around it.

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