An almost permanent garden with a steady show of bloom was the goal
of Karen Kees of Poway, California, east of San Diego. She didn’t
want to keep replanting, but she did want lots of color from early
spring through late summer. After five years of experimenting, she has
achieved the magnificent results shown in the photographs at right.
Her garden is filled with perennials that bloom reliably year after
year, with annuals that self-sow readily, and with bulbs that will
flower each spring without special digging or chilling. The charter on
page 172 lists the principal flower producers, along witn information on
planting and bloom season. Some of Kees’ favorite varieties
include ‘Blue Queen’ salvia, ‘Peter Pan’ agapanthus and ‘Giant Floradale’ penstemon.
If you’d like to start a garden of this kind, fall is an
excellent time, in mild-winter areas, to sow seeds and put out
seedlings. If you live in a colder climate, wait until spring to do the
Most important in this garden–besides the choice of plants–is
careful planning and soil preparation, and a complete watering system.
The first step involved creating three well-drained, 2- to
3-foot-high mounded areas in the sunniest parts of the front yard. These
were boradered by 3- and 4-foot-wide paths (the owner now feels that
wider paths (the owner now feels that wider paths–to 6 feet–would have
been even better).
Next step was to bring in truckloads of organic matter to improve
the heavy clay soil. A 4-inch layer of mulch (a mixture of stable
bedding and manure from a nearbly stable) was worked in thoroughly.
A timer-controlled sprinkler system, to cover the entire garden,
was installed at this point.
The bulbs and bulb-like plants went in, along with small seedlings
of perennials. Many annuals were planted from six-packs, others were
started from seed.
Once the garden was established, many of the plants became
self-sowing. to encourage this, Kees lets some of the flowers develop
seeds, then lays them in spots where she wants them to grow. After about
a week, she removes the dried flower heads, then increases watering to
promote germination. When seedlings aprout, they are thinned, perhaps
with some transplanting to other areas. Annual seedlings from the
nursery take care of a few bare spots.
Some annuals, such as California poppies, self-sow so freely that
no special encouragement is required. (For more on the treatment of
each flower, see the chart.)
The entire watering system is on an automatic timer. Sprinklers
run about 15 to 30 minutes–once a week in spring and every other day in
summer. Several stations allow Kees to vary the watering time in
different parts of the garden: newly planted areas, for instance, are
watered daily. A planned conversion from sprinklers to a drip system
will save water.
During bloom periods, regular feeding with high-nitrogen fertilizer
keeps plants in peak condition.
Daily maintenance chores in a garden like this include removing
spent flowers and weeding (here, requiring 30 minutes to 1 hour). In
spring, extra planting takes more time. And fall brings the big cleanup
chores–cutting back many of the perennials, applying fresh mulch, and
planting more bulbs. Some of the perennials occassionally need
dividing, but most of them can grow three to five years before getting