Q: I am a second-grade teacher. I want to give my students a holiday present of a pot and a packet of seeds. Which flower, vegetable and herb seeds do you think they would have the most success with planting in December or January?
– Laurie Shonafelt
A: Large seeds are best for kids. No blooming plant is easier to grow than nasturtium, whose flowers and leaves also happen to be edible. For vegetables, you could go with beans or corn. Lettuce seeds are on the small side but sprout quickly and reliably throughout the year. Herbs are a little tricky because of their size. Parsley, lavender, sage and rosemary seeds are tiny and probably too difficult for second-graders to plant, but you could try.
According to the Garden Media Group, a leading horticultural communications firm, 2004 is going to be a year of simplicity in the garden.
This trend will express itself in a number of ways: gardens planted in a single color, mass plantings and color-coordinated – as opposed to mixed-color – container plantings.
Single-color or monochrome flower gardens are easy on the eye. Where many colors are present, the eye cannot relax as it flits endlessly from one color to the next. As one plant grower explains it: “There is riot in everything we do; the riot does not need to be in our back yard.”
The new philosophy of simplicity is not really new. It finds its ultimate expression in the centuries-old Japanese garden, which, in seeking to replicate the natural landscape, is a celebration of green. The English garden, with its inclusion of every color under the sun, is a modern invention, not actually arriving on the horticultural scene until the end of the 19th century.
But the color of your focus does not have to be green. In a shade garden, for instance, you may want to plant only white flowers – as in certain varieties of impatiens, begonia, azalea, camellia and Japanese anemone – with some white-and-green-foliage plants, such as that seen in variegated lacecap hydrangeas and in glacier ivy.
Or, in a sunny garden, you could plant masses of ‘Knock Out’ roses, ground-cover roses that will soon rival the widely planted ‘Floral Carpet’ rose series in popularity. ‘Knock Out’ roses are available in red, pink and blush, bloom from spring through fall.
Speaking of long bloomers, a variety of hydrangea dubbed ‘Endless Summer’ that produces flowers on both new and old growth is now available. Even if you are careless about pruning, you will get plenty of flowers.
A trend toward moving-water (as opposed to standing-water) features has developed. Simple, self-circulating fountains are available that require far less maintenance than ponds.
TIP OF THE WEEK: If you are thinking of where to spend some extra cash, consider the wisdom of sprucing up your landscape as opposed to other home improvements. According to the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, a new landscape gives a return on investment of 100 to 200 percent, as opposed to a bathroom remodel, for example, whose return on investment is only 75 percent.