Making Your Bed: Landscaping Made Easy

When planning for your new garden bed, it can be hard to visualize where you want to dig it. I may be an artist, but even I still need a little help figuring where I should start shoveling. So I use the garden hose! Gather a few garden hoses if need be, and lay them out on the ground in the shape of the flower bed you wish to build. This gives you a good opportunity to play with a wavy design. For a natural look, try to keep your lines flowing and not in jolting, sharp angles. (This is a good place to mention to call 811 before you dig! Avista will come and mark any power lines or gas lines you want to avoid!)

Once that is done, chop out your lawn or pull the weeds. Another method I’ve used is burning out the weeds by laying thick black plastic over the bed for a summer and holding it in place with bricks. Yes, it looks ugly, but I got rid of the horrendous campanula that would not die even with Round-Up. Once your bed is clean, amend your soil appropriately. I always preach the better your soil, the less heartache for you in the future. It’s so true!

Now it’s time to choose your plants! Start with the largest or most predominate items. This can be your hardscape: a porch perhaps, pergola, or a simple archway trellis. Even a large tree or cluster of trees can form your centerpiece. Once those are in place, you can move out from there, planting your shrubs next, then your perennials. Plant your shrubs in odd numbered groups (1, 3 or 5) to make a landscape look more natural. Avoid planting in straight lines! For example, if planting three shrubs, plant them in a triangle or a ‘zig-zag’, giving each plant the room they need to grow.

Avoid ‘polka-dot’ planting. That means planting like an impulse buyer. This is a beginner’s mistake. When you buy one of everything in the nursery, your landscape will look like you brought the nursery home with you. Buy in groups! Three blue rug junipers to go with that gold mound spirea, looks better than one of this, and one of that, and another of this….  

Do not be tempted to ‘fill in’ a bed right away.  For instance, a lavender in a four inch pot may take three years to get to full size, but once full grown, that baby can grow out to a three foot circumference! Over-crowding is a very common problem I see in many landscapes. Plant shrubs too close together and the plants will fight over water and sunlight. Crowded branches can break and easily become diseased with mildew, or home to unwanted pests. Pruning to keep them under control is just time, energy and money that is wasted on improperly planted shrubs. It is also stressful on the plants to be pruned all the time, and can lead to unsightly winter damage and even death.

It takes an average of three years for perennials, trees, and shrubs to really establish themselves well and fill in your landscape. While waiting for your garden to fill in, plant annual flowers between shrubs. Wave petunias and French marigolds are examples of annual flowers that can give you lots of color for those bright sunny places. Wax begonias and impatiens are perfect for shady gardens. Annuals are great because they bloom their heads off all summer and die once it gets cold, so they are perfect to achieve that filled in look while waiting on that blue spruce to grow!

Use a drip line whenever possible versus sprinkler systems. This saves water from evaporating into the air, gets water directly to the roots, and prevents diseases that can be spread by water such as blight and mildew.

Now that I’ve told you what not to do, DO have fun! Any other landscape questions? Contact me at [email protected].

By Erin Nelson      

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