i was working in my flower garden last night before dinner and it was HOT. i mean two bottles of water guzzled, dripping with sweat hot. I thought to myself, thanks a lot michigan, you went from being 50F and rainy for two months to 90F and blazing heat. regardless, plants are resilient and with a few maintenance practices yesterday we are back on the right path. i was dealing with some leaf rot and powdery mildew on my tomatoes and squash but a bit of neem oil and some fungicide should do the trick. my flowers however are just about to burst. they are loving this heat and i’m excited to have some nice full bouquets for the rest of the summer.
i used to grow strictly vegetables and herbs but as my garden got bigger and bigger i wanted to try out new varieties. i couldn’t eat or giveaway anymore eggplant so i decided to venture into flowers. i’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks along the way and i’m constantly picking up new tips and techniques as i go. a great resource for me has been my garden club on facebook. we have had some awesome discussions there about garden maintenance and problem solving.
starting a flower garden has been therapeutic for me. i started back in our first house in byron center with just a small 10×4 foot bed and now my garden is almost half an acre at our new house. it’s a hobby and a passion for me. it’s my chance to get outside and get my hands dirty. i do a lot of thinking in my garden and am able to process things with a clearer mind when there are no distractions. if you are thinking about starting a garden i highly encourage you to do so. here are a few tips for getting started.
- find a good source. not everything has to be started from seed but i find it difficult to find really unique flowers from most greenhouses. my friend robin who owns robins flower garden in holland has unique blooms and she also helped me out by starting some of my seeds i ordered. she is a great resource of plant knowledge not to mention her greenhouses are also full of antiques. if you are local she is in holland, michigan you’ll most likely find her in pink. i like to “greenhouse” hop and over the course of the last few years i have found 3 – 4 favorites that i stop at every year to pick up unique plants. i’m also a regular at the farmers markets and in may most of the stalls are selling plants. i like to track the progress of plants from different sources because i find that some grow better than others. eventually you will find the best growers for you. if you want to start from seed, check out my post on seed sources. i always have luck getting these babies to grow.
- analyze your space. some flowers will produce multiple blooms per stem and others you might get one or two. if you have a smaller space maximize it by planting something that might give you a full bouquet per plant. I find that zinnias always give me multiple blooms per stem as do cosmos. read up on the back of the seed packets and see how large they will grow. if you want to take the guess work out of things i use a program called growveg that maps everything out for me. it bases your planting space on time, climate and size.
- start simple. my first flowers that i ever grew in my garden were zinnias. i remember being at my friend danns house and he had this crate filled with these tall beautiful stems. He is in an expert gardener and he told me how he casually tossed some seeds in there to see what would happen. of course being dann they grew like crazy into these beautiful blooming vibrant stems. zinnias are a great simple flower to grow in my zone. to find your hardiness zone click here. Other flowers that grow well in michigan are cosmos, snaps and amaranth. i found foxglove and stock to be tricky. in fact my stock never bloomed last year so it did not get space in this years garden.
- take care. i am a big fan of low maintenance gardening but even low maintenance requires maintenance. it’s so important with flowers to prune and cut back. especially when the first few blooms emerge it’s so hard to not want to let them hang around but cutting them back (based on the flower) will give you stronger and longer stems and more prolific blooms. sometimes i actually catch myself apologizing to the flowers i have to cut back. see? a lot of alone time out there in the garden.
- be patient. gardening is trial and error and it’s all about the learning experience. when i planted an entire row of stock last year and not a single one bloomed i was so frustrated that i dedicated that much space to something new. but it’s all trial and error. start something new small, let it “earn” it’s keep into getting more space the next year. i am trying a few new varieties this year and i am planting each plant in different areas of the garden to see how they perform. i feel there are so few opportunities to learn as an adult and gardening is such a good way to explore and get outside.
don’t let your flower garden frustrate you (easier said than done). i had to cut back a tomato plant in half due to mold. i also accidentally cracked a talk of flowers in half and pulled out two beet plants while cutting weeds. stuff happens and stuff grows back. for what doesn’t work there are always farmers markets and fellow growers. i would love for you to join our garden community online and share what you are growing this year. also if you have other favorite sources and sites i would love to hear them!