Cost-saving landscape flower garden strategy

I used to look at a large, well-designed flower garden with envy. With several flower varieties that go well together, the flower bed appeared to be designed by an expert. Because of the expense associated with a garden filled with several varieties of flower, especially perennial flowers, I thought I would never have a lovely flower garden. But then, after a little research online and some practice, I discovered that I could inexpensively create professional-looking flower beds. You, too, can create a dramatic flower garden. To lower the cost, start with one or two plants and then over the course of at least three years, continue to increase the number of plants to expand the dimensions of the garden. For added cost-saving, this garden design strategy includes perennial flowers that can be divided every two years and annual flowers that self-seed.

Year 1
Start with one perennial flower that can be divided every two years. Options include bearded iris (Iris) and yarrow (Achillea) as plants that reach 2 to 3 feet tall. Shorter perennial flowers that can be divided every two years include chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum) and tickseed (Coreopsis). I grow all these flowers and appreciate the fact that yarrow and tickseed self-seed making my landscape gardening easier. For shade locations, consider astilbe (Astilbe), hosta (Hosta), or lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), all of which can be divided every two years.

Year 2
Add two or three more flower varieties. To keep costs down, buy one perennial (see options under "Year one," above) and one or two annuals. Buy self-seeding annuals like sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritime) for sun or impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) for shade. I use both sweet alyssum and impatiens. The seeds of these annual flowering plants blow in the wind. I have found sweet alyssum and impatiens growing in cracks in the sidewalk and in the gravel driveway. Other self-seeding annual flowers include Johnny jump-up (Vilola tri-color), forget me not (Myosotis spp.), or California poppies (Eschscholzia californica). To encourage self-seed (also called self-sow), either skip using mulch or use a thin layer of mulch so seed can reach the soil. Rough up the soil in late summer, which helps seeds to settle in the area of the "mother" plant instead of floating away on the wind or being carried away by run-off water.

Year 3
In the spring, divide perennial flowers and replant to increase the density of each variety or to expand the size of the flower garden. Weed carefully so as not to disturb tiny seedlings of self-seeding annual flowers. Add new perennial flower varieties if desired. In late spring or early summer, examine the fullness of the garden (are there any bare spots?) and purchase additional annual flowers if desired. To save money, consider using annual flower seeds instead of plants.

Future years

Once established, other than weed pulling and fertilizing with a water soluble fertilizer (if desired), the only maintenance required is dividing the perennials every few years.