A.: Lucky you! A sunny border is the easiest place to have color in your garden, with an almost overwhelming variety of plants to choose from. There are a few simple ways to decide which plants you’d like for your own garden.
A popular way to select your garden plants is to plant only certain colors. An all white garden is beautiful by the back porch at night, especially if you choose fragrant flowers like Nicotiana, Brugmansia, Confederate Jasmine or Honeysuckle.
Some gardeners stick with cool colors, choosing blues and purples for flowers (Salvia, Cornflower, Scabiosa, Iris, Russian Sage) and accenting with foliage that has a grey or blue cast (Lamb’s Ears, Artemisia, Sedums). Some of the Wave petunias have a blue or purple cast to their bright magenta blooms, and can provide a lovely accent to the cool tones.
For a hot, eye-popping garden, fill your beds with yellow, orange and red flowers. Cannas, Rudbeckia, Gallardia and Coreopsis all have bright bold flowers, and don’t mind our dry summers. Marigolds and zinnias are annuals that will fill in nicely in the warm toned bed.
Rather than limiting color choices, there’s the “go with your gut” selection method, which, in spite of my intent to have a plan, is the way I really choose a lot of my plants. I wander around local nurseries, staying in the sunny plant section since I have no shade in my yard, and I pick up whatever plants catch my eye that day.
Reading the label that’s stuck in the pot is important. For the front of the bed, look for a low growing plant, perhaps 6 to 12 inches high. For the middle, look for a mature size of 12 to 24 inches high. You’ll find plants for the back of the flower bed that top out at 3, 4 or even 5 feet high.
The plant labels will also tell you how far apart to space the plants. To make it easy, just remember that the spacing refers to the center of each hole you dig. I measure the size of my flower bed before shopping so that I can tell by the labels how many of each plant will fit. A minimum of three of each plant will give you a nice group for massing.
To avoid losing your new plants to the winter weather, one important feature to look for on the label is the hardiness zone. This refers to the tolerance to cold the plant can bear. The zones have smaller numbers in the north and larger numbers the further south you go. Ours is zone 7b, and going down to Florida are zones 8 and 9. Those plants will be too tender for our winters, so I usually stick with plants that have a rating of zone 5, 6 or 7, which means if we have a bitter winter, I needn’t worry about losing any delicate plants.
It’s easy to make a colorful and long-lasting flower border when you take advantage of all the useful information on the label that comes with your new plant.