An almost permanent garden with a steady show of bloom was the goalof Karen Kees of Poway, California, east of San Diego. She didn’twant to keep replanting, but she did want lots of color from earlyspring through late summer. After five years of experimenting, she hasachieved the magnificent results shown in the photographs at right. Her garden is filled with perennials that bloom reliably year afteryear, with annuals that self-sow readily, and with bulbs that willflower each spring without special digging or chilling. The charter onpage 172 lists the principal flower producers, along witn information onplanting and bloom season. Some of Kees’ favorite varietiesinclude ‘Blue Queen’ salvia, ‘Peter Pan’ agapanthus and ‘Giant Floradale’ penstemon.
If you’d like to start a garden of this kind, fall is anexcellent time, in mild-winter areas, to sow seeds and put outseedlings. If you live in a colder climate, wait until spring to do themain planting. Most important in this garden–besides the choice of plants–iscareful planning and soil preparation, and a complete watering system. The first step involved creating three well-drained, 2- to3-foot-high mounded areas in the sunniest parts of the front yard. Thesewere boradered by 3- and 4-foot-wide paths (the owner now feels thatwider paths (the owner now feels that wider paths–to 6 feet–would havebeen even better).
Next step was to bring in truckloads of organic matter to improvethe heavy clay soil. A 4-inch layer of mulch (a mixture of stablebedding 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 seedlingsof perennials. Many annuals were planted from six-packs, others werestarted from seed. Once the garden was established, many of the plants becameself-sowing. to encourage this, Kees lets some of the flowers developseeds, then lays them in spots where she wants them to grow. After abouta week, she removes the dried flower heads, then increases watering topromote germination.
When seedlings aprout, they are thinned, perhapswith some transplanting to other areas. Annual seedlings from thenursery take care of a few bare spots. Some annuals, such as California poppies, self-sow so freely thatno special encouragement is required. (For more on the treatment ofeach flower, see the chart.
) The entire watering system is on an automatic timer. Sprinklersrun about 15 to 30 minutes–once a week in spring and every other day insummer. Several stations allow Kees to vary the watering time indifferent parts of the garden: newly planted areas, for instance, arewatered daily. A planned conversion from sprinklers to a drip systemwill save water. During bloom periods, regular feeding with high-nitrogen fertilizerkeeps plants in peak condition. Daily maintenance chores in a garden like this include removingspent flowers and weeding (here, requiring 30 minutes to 1 hour).
Inspring, extra planting takes more time. And fall brings the big cleanupchores–cutting back many of the perennials, applying fresh mulch, andplanting more bulbs. Some of the perennials occassionally needdividing, but most of them can grow three to five years before gettingcrowded.