Now that you’re fairly certain that your going to blow your brains out if you have to assemble your life around (boots coats scarves gloves ice-scraping salt bags shovels bald tires cars that won’t start sub-zero temperatures and indoor activities that have come to resemble Nickelodeon on an eternal loop) one more damn day this WINTER, I have a solution: Let’s talk GARDENING, naked. At midnight. (No- wait. That’s only me. Sorry).
First, what are Gardening Zones (or Plant Hardiness Zones)?
Think of them like a a map that shows you how short your temper and growing seasons are. It’s determined by average temperatures, days of sunlight, and amount of rainfall. The lower the Zone number the more Zoloft you’ll need.
Instead of concerning yourself with this ‘number’ just observe what plants your local Garden & Plant shop sells. They can’t stay in business if they sell ‘tropicals’ with advice to ‘plant outside’ in areas that receive five feet of snow and freeze to a depth of two feet every winter (Bless your hearts) and expect repeat customers. SHOP LOCAL.
Now, if you’re going to grow by seed, you need to pay attention to the Zone because the pretty pictures on the front of the envelopes are deceiving- especially when, after you’ve nurtured a seedling like a new found babe (only to have them either fried by intense heat or turned to mush by too much rain) they turns on you like spawn from Hell. You’ve got plenty of that inside the house.
Secondly, you know that ‘thing’ called Square Foot Gardening? Whereby you plant everything 12 inches apart?
Good for veggies (that have but one powerful short life to give for you and aggressive root structures) but not for flowers. Unless you have a boatload of space, big strong men to spread mulch, and a tremendous amount of spare time on your hands to weed- forget that crap. PLANT TIGHT. And en masse ( ‘in mass’ or ‘groups’ for those of you that don’t garden in French). Never plant a single flower in a space (or I’ll have to come over and hit you up-side the head) and as long as I’m on the topic, a ‘group’ means a minimum of three. Always plant in ‘odd’ numbers. No one wants to see military precision in a flower garden. Flower gardens are meant to ramble and look effortless and give people the impression that your casually brilliant and brush with Champagne.
Thirdly, understand the differences between Annuals and Perennials.
An Annual is like a one night stand- passionate and short. They have one BIG bloom and are never to be seen again. They also have shallow root structures. (Of course they do) This means they need to be watered more often BUT not as deeply. Annual’s are more affordable but will never come back. Alas, we all have a story….
A Perennial is like a Bank that’s insured by the FDIC- strong, steady, and pays dividends. They may be less showy, but they’re reliable. These have deep root structures (think: Rockefeller). This means they don’t need to be watered as frequently, but when you do water- water deeply. Sorta like maxing out your 401-K matching funds agreement. Make sure you do that btw. Perennials are more pricey but will be with you for a l-o-n-g time. Like
my most idiot husbands.
So, now, How To Cut them?
Some annuals don’t like to be cut, like Petunias. Pinch the wilted blooms off and they will continue to bloom. The rule of thumb is if the cut stalk is sticky- get your fingers icky. (I know- dumb- but accurate). Other annuals like to be cut, like Zinnias, and Sunflowers. If the stalk is sturdy, and long, cut away.
Almost all Perennials need to be cut (for repeat blooming and continued health). When your Perennial is dying-back (yes- they have a season but will return) give them a few weeks and then you will see what’s called basal growth, or new growth at the base. Give your plant a haircut down to this growth. It may not bloom again that season, but it will strengthen the root structure until it’s time to bloom again- and root structure is key with perennials- strong roots… no need for boots. (I don’t know what the hell that means but it rhythms so I’m going with it).
In addition, just know that ALL plants need sun.
Don’t let anyone fool you about this. When a plant’s care instructions say “only needs partial sun” or “enjoys partial shade” it means mostly sun. Maybe maybe being protected from the strong rays of the late afternoon like the information we wish we had all had in the 1970s. Look at us now. -head shaking-
And, all plants need food.
Annuals are hungry little bastards. They love surface released fertilizer. This means liquid concentrate.
Perennials have better manners. They enjoy a slowly served meal. Use pellets and add compost to the soil every spring.
Annuals are showy, cheap, a flash-in-the-pan, and come in crazy colors that only Mother Nature’s teenage daughter would be caught wearing. I think Jane Mansfield was an annual. For the current generation- maybe a Kardashian?
Perennials are show-stoppers, more expensive, have staying-power, and come in amazing shapes that only the first generation of midlife powerhouses could pull-off. I’m voting for those.
But no matter what your space, your challenges, your pocketbook, and your experience, there is no place better to find peace and happiness and your patch in the Universe then on your knees with dirt under your manicured nails trying to figure out how to prune the roses and keep the sun off your aging face.
So let’s all just agree- God isn’t just in the details. He loves your garden…