Every street has a house with a picture-perfect garden full of blossoms that don’t seem to fade like most flowerbeds do.
For those without green thumbs, creating and maintaining well-manicured flower, herb and vegetable beds may seem impossible, but according to Simone Garossino – owner of Prairie Tough Farms, which specializes in locally grown cut flowers, plants and herbs – with a little planning and preparation, anyone can have the prairie garden of their dreams.
For Garossino, who grew up gardening in Germany and now works her magic on a farm northwest of Airdrie, achieving a garden with all-season colour at an affordable price is possible even in our tough Chinook growing region.
“It is about choosing the right types of flowers,” says Garossino. She notes building the garden around hardy perennials—with varying heights, colours and bloom times—is a cost-effective and proven method to ensure a summer full of blooms.
Garossino’s cut-flower garden, which she uses for her subscription bouquets, typically begins blooming early with tulips, daffodils and alliums offering a burst of early-season colour that is tough to beat.
Although these bulbs are planted in autumn, they come in a variety of colours and sizes and are nearly maintenance free. Many are perennial and will even naturalize, meaning you can expect bulbs to increase every year, according to Garossino.
For an early summer showstopper, Garossino gravitates toward peonies, explaining although the shrub-like flowers with huge blossoms can cost around $30 per plant, the initial investment is worth it as they can live 30 or more years and produce hundreds of blooms.
In fact, these hardy perennials can often be found in abandoned farmyards blooming happily away against the backdrop of crumbling foundations. Little effort is needed to maintain the beauty of peonies, although Garossino advises city gardeners to cut the spent blossoms of peonies when they are done flowering as “they can look a bit messy.”
Her perennial favourites also include poppies, which come in many shapes and colours, and campanula, or bluebell-like flowers, which come in many heights and colours such as blue, pink, white and mauve.
Yarrows complete Garossino’s list of recommended perennials. She often pairs these fall-blooming flowers with sedum of varying sizes for fall colour and winter interest.
Garossino suggests using annuals to fill missing spots in flowerbeds.
For a cost-effective alternative to bedding plants purchased at the greenhouse, she advises direct seeding of beds with prolific bloomers such as bachelor buttons (which are one of the few flowers that come in a coveted blue hue) and cosmos.
Both of these flowers come in a wide variety of colours and, if you trim the spent blooms, will continue to bloom well into the fall, she says.
Hollyhocks are also lovely tall biennials that readily reseed themselves.
“You can pick a spot and let them do their thing,” says Garossino.
Whatever type of garden for which you yearn, some pre-planning can go a long way.
According to Garossino, if you choose plants of varying height, colour and bloom time; mulch with untreated bark chips (but not cedar as it inhibits growth) and grass clippings; and use plenty of organic material, such as compost, sheep manure and worm castings, you too can have a low-maintenance garden that is the envy of the neighbourhood.