Ask Design Mom: Planting Flowers

May 25, 2007

Ask-Design-Mom Question:
Dear Design Mom. I’m recently married (okay, perhaps 3 years isn’t recent, but I’m still getting used to the whole married life), and I married into a house. My husband owns this great ranch house that has a huge yard and is just screaming for flowers to be planted. What are the basics for planting flowers. When and what kinds should I plant. I really am just looking at low maintenance flowers that will look pretty and that will come up year after year. Thanks! — Becky

Design Mom Answer:
Becky, this question is especially timely for me. In fact this is the first year I’ve made a true effort at working on adding flowers to our yard — I’m experimenting with only red varieties. Since I’m no expert, I’ll leave it to Design Mom Readers to give both of us their best hints, helps, guidance and links about flower planting.

flower image from Jackson & Perkins

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 love.boxes May 25, 2007 at 8:26 am

If you are looking for flowers that come up year after year. Bleeding hearts are very beautiful as are peonies and I also love cosmos for that wild flower look they have.

Don’t forget Preen. If it’s your first exsposure to gardening. Preen will save your back from most of the weeding but make sure seeded plants are well up before the first application.


2 Bekah May 25, 2007 at 11:11 am

It all depends on where you live. Here in so-cal my snapdragons come back every year. In colder climates, I’m a fan of tulips, irises, and daffodils since they also come back. Butterfly bushes are really beautiful, come in a variety of colors and attract birds and butterflies like crazy. Foxglove and of course roses (they’re really hearty).


3 Upside Up May 25, 2007 at 8:37 pm

when we moved into our first bought house, we inherited a big rectangular yard full of weedy grass. over the course of the 6 years we lived there, with the help of my gardening parents, we turned that yard into a lovely garden. here are my two tips from having slogged my way through the trenches (‘scuse the pun):

1) as you walk/drive through neighborhoods you like, pay close attention to other people’s yards. notice the ones you like and study them well. don’t be afraid to ask the creators of that yard what certain flowers are — most likely they’re very proud of it and will love to talk to you about it.

i find it easiest to focus on solving one “problem” at a time. otherwise, other people’s lovely gardens just look like a large intimidating lushness that you can’t see the particulars of. for example, if you want to create a bed around a tree, notice other people’s beds around trees. if you want to create a bed along the foundation of your house, focus on those. this way you aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but instead are studying and learning from other people’s successes.

2. although flowers are tempting, especially at this time of year while they’re all starting to bloom, most of them have short-lived blooming times (unless you’re planting annuals, which only live for one season, but bloom throughout that season). a landscape architect friend of mine taught me this invaluable lesson: plant bushes; fill in with flowers. this is the way to make your garden look lush, even when things aren’t blooming.

short of this, the local garden centers and nurseries (not so much the home depots — although they’re great for once you know what you’re looking for) are filled with people who want to teach you about the plants that work well where you live.

good luck everyone!


4 Kristin May 26, 2007 at 1:48 pm

Like bekah says, it depends on what USDA zone you live in. I am zone 5, and I love liatris, daylilies and asiatic lilies, which require zero work, divide themselves into more and more plants each year, and are showy and gorgeous. All are bulb-planted. I also dearly love petunias, which are just annuals, but come in great colours, to fill in blank spots, and giant hostas, which grow big, fast, and look very established, very fast.


5 Brooke May 26, 2007 at 2:41 pm

After you post what zone you live in and the amount of sun you get we could give more suggestions.

It also depends on your preferences. I think gardens just aren’t right without LOTS of flowers, so I just find perenniels that bloom a long time and also fill in with annuals.

Do you want formal or informal, cottagey with lots of flowers, or more modern with stong lines and textures?


6 Janice May 29, 2007 at 9:24 am

I love Balloon flowers and cleome. Also, vinca (not the ground cover kind) do wonderfully. My first few years as a gardener, I spent a lot of time in local nurserys asking questions. They are really your best source.


7 Anonymous June 2, 2007 at 10:30 am

It’s the first of June when I’m commenting, but you could still plant marigolds (not from seed) and have bright yellow and oranges most of the summer. Also, Chrysanthamums can be planted now; cut back any of their bloom and they should bloom nicely at the end of summer.

I like to plant a bunch of the same tone for a color blitz. For instance, I like many colors of iris, but I chose one I like best and planted only it(and divided and planted again) so that after five years it’s a great show when they’re on.

Speaking of color, one year I brought home every sort of blooming thing I could find in a pinky-salmon color. There were many different kinds of flowers, but the whole bed showed off PINK.


8 Neha March 21, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Dear Design Mom,

Your blog is beautiful, informative and fun to go through. I was wondering if you got a chance to observe the french do few quick and swift hand movements and transform their hair in an elegant “french roll” . I love this seemingly easy hairstyle but could never get it.
Your farm house in Normandy is sooo adorable.


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