Spring is in the air—and for many, so is garden fever! Mary Romence graciously offered West Michigan Woman some of her spring gardening insights. We hope you’ll learn as much from her as we did.
One important rule about gardening: There are no design rules that cannot be broken! Gardening should simply be fun, and should create a more beautiful and healthier life.
If you’re new to gardening, start in the spring by choosing the best spot for your new garden. Figure out where you will most often see it. Plant your garden where you—not just the neighbors—will enjoy it every day. Decide if the spot gets a lot of sun, only morning or afternoon sun, or is mostly in shade. You have to know if it is sunny, shady, or a little of both before you could properly purchase plants. Remember: The sun changes position in the sky from spring to fall, and shade trees not leafed out in early spring soon will be a factor.
To guarantee success, the most important thing to do before planting is to make sure your garden has good soil. Is it heavy clay or too sandy or wet? Send your soil for testing—or grab a handful and clench it: It should make a gently crumbling ball. The error most new gardeners are likely to commit is getting all excited about buying plants before they have a “bed” to put them in. That would be like bringing a new baby home, without having a cradle!
If you have an established garden, in the spring you should start by loosening up the soil and hoeing out the weeds. It's easier now than when your returning plants are big! Don’t sprinkle weed preventers until you know what plants you will be adding, because they could sometimes inhibit growth of new plants and the self-seeding of favorite plants. Carefully using weed killers once the weather warms up could save you work later.
Now, it’s time to think about purchasing plants. To find out what the best plants are for West Michigan, go to a family-owned retail greenhouse. The easiest to grow are annuals; these plants bloom all summer, but die when it freezes. Some colorful and prolific bloomers are ‘Wave’ petunias for a sunny area, and fibrous or ‘non-stop’ begonias for a shadier spot. Other options include the new PW branded plants in pots: callies, supertunias, sweet potato vines, and dozens of others. At Romence Gardens, the Princess lily and gigantic elephant ears are customer favorites.
Perennials are another option for creating beautiful gardens. These are plants that have a specific time to bloom each summer, have interesting foliage as well as flowers, die back in the winter, and return the next spring—bigger and better. Romence Gardens offers about a thousand great choices. The list of “best” and “favorites” varies by whom you ask, but among most of them are hellebores for the earliest blooms, heucheras for all-season-long foliage color, Knock-out shrub roses for flowers all summer, and ornamental grasses for fall and winter interest. All are gardener-friendly.
The avid gardeners at Romence Gardens add vegetables and herbs to their gardens—for usefulness and healthy living and to add unusual beauty. Flowering shrubs are another good choice for added interest in a garden.
Once planted, to keep it growing and beautiful, a garden needs proper watering, occasional fertilizing, and weeding. But always—and most important—it needs LOVE.
Written by: Mary Romence is an amazing gardener who doubles as Romence Gardens & Greenhouses’ on-staff eloquent writer. Romence Gardens & Greenhouses has an extensive plant library that it sells in its Grand Rapids greenhouses and for shipment throughout the country. Visit www.romencegardens.com for more information.