Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Flower gardening a joy - now and forever

Pay attention to your plans, your favorites, your harmony


PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOAN BROWN - Margie McDonald and Fabian Negrete, who work at Portland Nursery, show off popular garden items including rhododendrons and wisteria.Because flowering plants are beautiful and gardening is an opportunity to play outside, it’s tempting to want to plant without a plan.

But before you dig, study the space. Shady spots and sunny areas make all the difference when planning, planting, and enjoying a garden. Take time with observing the space, and considering options advised Suzy Hancock, general manager at Portland Nursery. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to take a full year to note the sunny and shady areas.

Next in importance is the soil.

“It’s always good to dig a few holes,” said Hancock. “We have a lot of clay soils in our area, but we have a lot of sandy pockets as well.”

More things to be had in Portland are companies that mix soils and sell in bulk, and companies that sell bagged soil. If soil is bought, how much is needed to adequately improve existing conditions? Soil testing and talking with an expert at a gardening center will help with advice specific to needs.

Container gardening is another option, and it allows for high control over soil, pests, and placement. Built up, stationary boxes as garden spaces can be ideal, and so can pots. Hancock suggested using big ceramic pots, and explained a practical method for preparing containers. First, put screen material, such as for windows, across the bottom to cover the drainage holes. Second, add filler such as foam packing peanuts or crushed cans. Next add another layer of screen. Finally add soil. This method supports good drainage, the pots are lighter than if filled with all dirt, the bottom screen controls pests from the ground up, and the upper screen prevents soil for falling into the filler area. Depth of the soil layer is dependent on the root depth of the plant intended for that container.

Another consideration in planning a garden space is boggy areas. “If you don’t want to put in drains and all that, then gear your plants toward things that can take more boggy conditions,” Hancock said.

The next thing is to decide what you want to do with your different areas. Things to think about are patios, play areas, meditation spaces, specialty gardens, color patterns, and year-round blooms. Hancock suggested creating a visual.

“If you’re planning a patio, get your lawn furniture out there. Nine out of 10 patios are too small,” Hancock said. As with the pots, plan big. “Move your furniture around, get it just the way you want it, put a hose around it to get a sense of the area.”

Attracting butterflies might be a goal, and there are a number of plants, like mint and lilac that grow well in Portland and are food sources for butterflies. Birds are also attracted by certain plants, and so are people! A lot of flowers are edible for humans, such as sunflowers, nasturtiums, and pansies. Herb gardens can also be fun.

“Rosemary is just fabulous,” Hancock said. Blooming shrubs and trees also present infinite possibilities for the flower gardener. Plan, go see what’s available, talk to the crew at your favorite nursery, and plan some more.

Choosing plants, overall looks and heights, flowering trees, blooming schedules and color schemes ideal for an area can be a lot of fun. Varieties and numbers of flowers that bloom in Portland are encouraging for gardeners to get busy with projects. Exploring Portland neighborhoods is a great way to get ideas of how different plants may look and blend together, and may develop old ideas into new possibilities.

Gardening can be frustrating when plants don’t perform, but with good planning and help from experts, spaces can become areas of harmony and beauty.