This is the time of year when gardeners frequent nurseries as they search for plants to install in flowerbeds. There are so many beautiful and interesting plants to choose from, how do you decide what to plant each spring? Why not plant a theme garden!
There are all sorts of themes for flower gardens. If you have a shady backyard that needs some color, you might consider planting woodland gardens, using a variety of ferns, hostas and shade-loving wildflowers. Bunchberry, or Cornus canadensis, is a member of the dogwood family and makes a wonderful groundcover for woodland gardens. Trilliums, Jack-in-the-pulpit, wild geranium, bloodroot and Virginia bluebells are just some of the plants appropriate for woodland gardens.
Cimicifuga, also known as black cohosh, is a striking plant for woodland gardens. Cimicifuga sends up tall spikes covered with airy white blooms, making it a wonderful accent plant for a shady garden.
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Please don't dig plants from the wild for woodland gardens. Look for plants that are suitable for woodland gardens at garden centers or buy them from a backyard nursery that specializes in such plants.
Perhaps a white garden is more your style. A white garden would contain plants that have white blooms or those that have foliage that is variegated white and green. White peonies, petunias, zinnias, white-blooming or variegated hosta, Alyssum, white astilbe and lily of the valley would be good choices for a white theme garden. If a white garden wouldn’t complement your own landscape, choose another complementary color for your garden theme.
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Another idea for a theme would be night-blooming plants. A night-blooming garden is sometimes referred to as a moon garden. It’s somewhat surprising how many night-blooming plants there are to choose from. Petunias open during the day, but they don’t release their scent until evening. Four O’Clocks are a night-blooming plant with a heavenly scent, along with Nicotiana (flowering tobacco) or night-scented Jasmine. Evening-scented Stock is a lovely old-fashioned flower that will fill your moon garden with a lovely scent. Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) blooms at night, and since its blooms are white, it is also a good choice for a white theme garden.
Despite their name, there are even daylilies that bloom at night. Look for "Ice Dancer", "Nautical Nights" or "Alaskan Midnight" daylilies for a moon garden. Climbing hydrangea or a Sweet Bay tree would also make good additions to a moon garden.
A theme garden that’s sure to start conversations is a Mary garden. What on earth is a Mary garden, you might ask. A Mary garden contains plants that either have “Mary” in their name, or plants that formerly referred to “Mary”, most often in medieval times. Marigolds, rosemary and marjoram are all suitable for a Mary theme garden.
Think about the old nursery rhyme: “Mary, Mary, quite contrary. How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells, and pretty maids, all in a row.” The Carolina Silverbell tree could represent Mary’s silver bells, or biennial Canterbury Bells would also be appropriate since an old name for them is Mary Bells. Seashell Cosmos, an attractive annual, could represent the cockleshells. The pretty maids all in a row could be represented by hollyhocks or perhaps larkspur. An old name for larkspur is Mary’s Tears.
Forget-me-nots can be planted in a Mary garden, as they used to be called Eyes of Mary. Scabiosa, which we often call pincushion flower, used to be called Mary’s Pincushion. And peonies were formerly known as Mary’s Rose.
Whatever theme you might choose for a garden, the most important thing is to have fun with it. After all, gardening should be an enjoyable hobby.