I’m a person who has more hobbies than I can count on my fingers (and toes). However, after refining my hobbies over decades my main passions have remained yarn works (knitting, crocheting latch hook, needlepoint etc), woodworking and perennial gardening. Although I love all crafts, I have to limit myself to my real passions (although I occasionally fit in an exception)!
This year in the Midwest we have had a cold, short spring and it seems that the typical spring bloom succession for flowers are now crammed into a few weeks in May. My garden style is an eclectic mix between cottage style and mixed border. I’ve mixed these two styles by using the cottage flowers (roses, delphinium, hydrangeas, iris, clematis) which I truly love. Yet I’m not sold on the chaotic look of an English garden therefore I use the layout of the mixed border. That means instead of having flowers filling every space in the garden, I’ve designed spaces between flower groupings to let each group be it’s own showcase. My garden features shrubs along with perennials. This style lends itself to the long winter months in Minnesota as the shrubs give me some winter interest in the garden when everything else has died back.
With that being said, I give my perennial garden a leg up on the growing season. And that means getting outside to fertilize my plants before they really take off growing. So here’s what I do for my gardens top 5 preforming flowers:
Shrub roses are one of all time favorites. These beauties stand up to extremely cold weather of our Minnesota winters. This picture is of my William Baffin climbing rose the year after I transplanted it. I placed it in my front yard as a focal point and it hasn’t disappointed me yet. I cut it back hard last fall and already the 6-8 canes are about 4′ tall. I fertilize it in early spring (April) followed by two more (around June 1st & July 15th). I apply a systemic fertilizer (which contains insect control also). I also put ripe bananas peels around the base (raked into the dirt) for added potassium and about 2 tsp of Epsom salts for Magnesium.
Peonies are another favorite of mine. I have about 30+ varieties and I plan on adding more. These are long lived perennials and their care is pretty easy. They need rich, loamy soil for their best care. I use an early spring dressing of 5-10-10 and then also once again halfway through the growing season.. Peonies don’t like a lot of nitrogen so keep that first fertilizer number low. I’ve read that others sprinkle bone meal or fireplace ashes scratched lightly into the soil around the bush. Be careful not to disrupt their roots.
This picture is not of my siberian iris, but I just had to showcase what wonderful plants they are. Mine have yet to look this spectacular. These iris are also a great garden plant with beautiful flowers, great foliage and minimal care. I fertilize mine with a 10-10-10 general fertilizer in early spring and then again after they bloom. They like a lot of water and I mulch my iris to help conserve on water loss.
Hydrangeas are another flower that are a must in my garden. This in’t a photo from my garden, but it is a great option to show you the colors available in the hydrangea world. My new favorite is called Limelight and I’m going to grow it in the standard tree form. I have it ordered and once I get it in, you’ll be the first to see it. Hydrangeas flower blue in acidic soil & pink in limey soils. Because mine are close to the basement foundation they flower pink. Either way, I love them. I fertilize mine with a general 10-10-10 fertilizer once in June. Another option is to top dress with composted manure.
Rounding out my top 5 perennials is the delphinium. They require more work than some other flowers, but their grand display of flowers keeps me planting them. I love the colors and I order my seeds from Australia. They love good soil with some added compost. They need at least 1″ of water a week and I make sure they’re mulched well.They like full sun and I have to stake these beauties as some can reach 6′ tall blooms. I place mine in somewhat wind protected areas of the garden, and they’re always staked for security. These also are short-lived perennials, but they can be divided in early spring fairly easily.