Newbie wants 3 season garden

Carrera(z5 Chi)September 1, 2004

Hi everyone, this is my first post! We just bought a house (SW suburbs) and I will finally have the space to make a nice garden.

I want to know what I can do now to gear up for a 3 season blooming garden. The old owners did not care much for their garden and basically just have some small shrubs and lots of weeds. I would like perennials/bulbs and some annuals for what looks like a full/partial sun area in front, about 20'x10'. I want lots of color and variety, does anyone have suggestions for what works well? I thought about getting a planned garden from a bulb catalog but I'm a little wary.

Right now we live in a condo with a small patch of space for gardening, and I have daylilies, geraniums, Mexican shell flowers, dianthus, dahlias and assorted wildflowers. Sounds like a mess, but I'm still learning. TIA!

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leaveswave(.)

The most boring parts of starting a new garden are the ones you will appreciate most if you do them with care: prepare the spot and have a plan. Can't emphasize this enough to save you time, trouble, and grief down the road. Get some books from the library, Perennial Combinations is a good one to start. If you can get the area prepped soon, you can even plant this year, many nurseries are starting their fall sales. Be sure to keep watered, supplementing to about 1" a week if rainfall falls short. Best wishes with your project and have fun!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2004 at 8:27AM
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Oswegian(Z5 IL)

When we moved out here to the burbs from Hyde Park, I knew nothing about taking care of plants, and especially in this region. I lived in the Arizona desert for 15 years before we moved here. I'm a nature lover and interested in wild and cultivated plants, but really -- no experience. (My mom can make a popsickle stick grow. Obviously that skipped a generation.)

I did try to do it myself at first. Midwestern plants and landscapes are great, so I was interested. I acquired a veritable library of books geared to Chicagoland gardening, a membership in the Morton Arboretum, but I still just did not know where to start. Too many freakin variables. We decided to take a landscaping class at the parks district here.

The teacher of that class had been a horticulture judge at the Kendall County fair for 20 years and has her own design business. Six months after we took the class (the next winter), I called her up. Even after the short course, I still felt adrift. She specializes in natural gardens and works for the forest preserve district as well.

Anyway, to make a short story long here, we got design help and installation help, but I take care of the plants now. It's really kind of like if we moved into a house with a garden in place. I am still learning, but I love what I see.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2004 at 12:05AM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Bulbs in spring, summer and fall, perennials, shrubs & ornamental grass for the rest of the year with a few evergreens thrown in.

The longest blooming perennials for me are Scabiosa 'Blue Butterfly', Aster frikartii 'Monch', Rudbecki fulgida.

Sedum 'Autumn Joy', Ornamental grass and Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' give me interesting seedheads long into winter.

I love my Red Twig and Red/orange/yellow twig Dogwood and Coral Embers Willow, my miniature conifers and Yuccas.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2004 at 10:09PM
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tadeusz5(z5 il)

Carrera; You already have some colors in the existing varieties of plants that you grow- use them as your starting point, then try maybe some woodland plants for the spring, with spring bullbs, perennials on "top" of the spring bulbs, followed by your summer plants- if you have the time to water/weed/deadhead the summer perrennials then Gailardia/Coreopsis/Poppies/Cosmos would be my first
choices. If you want you can create a Summer/Fall "Prairie" plant environment- no need to do anything with those "native" plants - remember you are the architect , it's your garden of Eden- go for it.

Good luck.
Tadeusz in southwest Suburb

    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 3:46PM
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birdsnblooms

Carr, the longest growiing annual, that will grow well into Nov, is Ornamental Kale..there are several varieties, from short to tall, colorful leaves, and spike flowers.
My holly bush is evergreen and grows red berry's in early winter. Toni

    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 10:24PM
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cantstopgardening(Zone 4/5 WI)

Excellent suggestions from other posters. I'd just like to add:

Take lots of photos, keep a garden journal. I include lists in my garden journal called, 'What's blooming now?' also 'What's come up already?' The journal really helped me fill out some blah times in my yard. The photos help when I'm drooling over the garden catalogs in winter, and trying to figure out if a new plant might look good in an area.

On another forum, a poster suggested taking black and white photography to help with the landscape design. That way the focus is not just color, but also includes texture, form, line. A great idea! Especially helpful when thinking of keeping the garden interesting in winter.

And most important, soil is your best ally in the garden. Learn about your soil type, and add plenty of organic matter to your garden. Sounds like you're off to a great start already!

Happy gardening,
cantstop

    Bookmark   December 4, 2004 at 11:44AM
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applefan

I live in Napervillle...
In the Spring my side yard is filled with randomly planted daffodils amid the vinca. (No tulilps because I live in Deer Country!) I have crocuses and viola all along the walk to my front door and usually by Memorial day my peony bushes give a short display .

I raise most of my annuals for summer under lights and plant them in pots on the patio. These include ageratum, alyssum, begonia.(.the wonder plant...it grows in sun or shade), celosia, coleus, dianthus, geranium, gomphrena, lobelia, marigold, nasturtium, nicotiana, and salvia.

Fall show comes from annual ornamental cabbage and kale, rudbeckia, snapdragons and verbena. perennials... chrysanthemum, sedum, gaillardia and ornamental grasses. I purchase Spike plants in the spring and these usually last thru Xmas.

This all evolved over 30 years of Loving to Garden...
Jean

    Bookmark   January 6, 2005 at 12:23AM
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lilaclily(z5IL)

Here are some of my suggestions:

Spring: daffs, crocus, grape hyacinths, tall bearded iris

Summer: perennials (phlox, coneflower, black-eyed susan)
annuals (snapdragon, petunia, gazania, alyssum)
tubers you'll have to dig up (dahlia, canna)

Fall: sedum (Autumn Joy), mums, asters

Most are trouble-free, spread nicely, and bloom for a long time.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2005 at 11:52AM
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Roberta_z5(Z4/5 IL)

I live in Lisle (between Downers Grove and Naperville) and started my perennial garden here 12 years ago when we bought this house. Since most perennials you buy won't really kick in for a couple of years, put in lots of spring bulbs and depend on annuals to fill in.

Remember, with perennials: 1st year they sleep, 2nd year they creep, and 3rd year they leap. By that third year, you will have little room for annuals, but will probably still want some to fill in those "dead" times like the middle of August to the middle of Sept. when the perennials are spent. The fall mums and asters won't be quite ready yet. Have fun with it and don't take your designs too seriously.

You can always re-arrange the furniture. That is the fun part! Also, as much as you might think labeling plants isn't important, it might be in the future. You may want to trade different varieties of salvia, veronica, rudbeckia, daylilies and hosta. You will need to know what you have! (Didn't we all make that mistake in the beginning?)

    Bookmark   January 16, 2005 at 5:01PM
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applefan

Oops...I can't believe I forgot to mention Day Lilies. They require very little care...there are varieties that grow in shade and sun and all areas in between...and you can have blooms over a very long period in the summer by selecting early, mid-season, and late varieties. Do check them out. There's a Day Lily nursery near Bollingbrook that is really helpful.
Jean

    Bookmark   January 21, 2005 at 12:19AM
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