Lessons learned from summer garden tours

Gardens are all as unique as their creators. There isn’t a correct type of garden or way to garden. What works for one garden or gardener might not work for another. This is very evident when one tours a number of gardens on the same day.

Gardens are all as unique as their creators.

There isn’t a correct type of garden or way to garden. What works for one garden or gardener might not work for another. This is very evident when one tours a number of gardens on the same day.

Gardens may contain the same plants but they will still be different. Placement of plants, the size of the yard, the materials used to construct the yard, the amount of direct sunlight, soil and maintenance are all components that make up the complete yard.

When walking through a yard, keep an open mind and learn. Take into account why was the yard created, knowing that a garden is rarely created for only one purpose.

Some gardens are created for the sake of gardening. These people enjoy gardening. They like the physical exercise as well as the creative outlet. The garden is their masterpiece, which will never be complete.

In yards where the main focus is consumption, fruit, vegetables and herbs are front and centre. Decorative plants are secondary. This doesn’t mean that the garden is without charm. Fruit and vegetables, depending on their arrangement, can be very appealing.

People who like to share their garden with others will most likely have a number of sitting areas: places to sit and relax that invite people to enjoy them and the yard at their best.

Other gardens are developed to leave a very small environmental footprint. In these gardens, nature is welcomed. Introduced plants are intermingled with the native ones. Animals, birds and insects are enjoyed when they wonder through the garden. The damage they do is usually minimal as they are used to munching on the native plants that are in large supply.

Making observations, talking with gardeners, asking questions and comparing different methods add to everyone’s knowledge.

Lessons learned from gardens toured this season:

l Vector petunias have a smaller flower than some of the other varieties of petunias but they grow with little care, produce more flowers while creating a mass of color.

l Homesteader (Lincoln) peas are sweeter than the variety Green Arrow. On the down side Homesteader peas become starchy when they are still relatively small. Green Arrow peas will grow to a large size and only taste starchy when the pod begins to shrivel and wrinkle.

l Purple carrots add colour to the table but they do not grow as fast as the orange or yellow varieties. Nante carrots continue to be one of the best varieties that are grown in Central Alberta.

l To most people, red raspberries are the norm but they are available in yellow and black. If yellow raspberries are picked when they have an orange tinge, they are sweeter than the red. Unfortunately they are not as appealing to eat frozen or as jelly.

l It is possible to have too large of a garden, vegetable or decorative. If a gardener continually produces more food than they can eat in a year, give to friends, family and neighbours, or sell, it is time to plant less.

l Given the correct conditions, Scottish moss will thrive in Central Alberta. It is a low perennial, not a moss, and needs an area that receives some direct sunlight as well as well drained soil.

Gardening is always a learning experience.

If you wish to share what is learned, please email me.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or your_garden@hotmail.com.

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