Tips to Beautify Your Garden

There’s nothing quite like looking out on a beautiful garden from your porch or patio, while enjoying a cup of coffee, glass of wine, or a conversation with someone you care about. Gardens beautify our outdoor spaces, provide nutritious food for our families, and enrich our lives by providing meaningful, rewarding work for our hands.

We met with our special guest, Katie Femia from The Homespun Hydrangea, who shared her tips with us about how to get garden ready for summer! This post will recap those tips, as well as provide you with the inspiration you’ll need to begin beautifying your outdoor spaces.

I would also like to thank my partner, Rachel Honoway from Type-A who provided the gorgeous photos from her garden, as well as her beautiful descriptions and helpful tips.

Interview with Katie Femia

How do you learn what plants work best in your growing conditions?

“Visit your local growers, greenhouse, or farmer’s market. They can tell you what will grow best in your climate and how to take care of the plants you put in. Be sure to reference the tags on each flower or plant. There is so much information on that little card.”

What’s the difference between annuals and perennials?

“Annuals: Give you one season, and they’re done. Think of it like an event, it’s something you do every year: Plant your annuals every year.

Perennials: Return year after year.”

How do you lay out your garden?

“I think of my garden as a constantly evolving puzzle that I work and change each year. It’s never a finished project. The rule of thumb is smaller plants in the front, medium plants in the middle, tall plants in the back. (Tip: the tags will tell you how tall each plant will grow.)” 

Hostas

These are three varieties of hosta. They are a versatile plant that thrive in shade and sun. Though, if they are in the sun, they like a lot of water. Without even flowering, they add a ton of color to your landscape. They expand year after year, and you can easily cut away pieces to transplant in other areas. I bought two of each of these years ago, and now there are at least 4 of each variety in my yard, as well as additional transplants at my sister in law’s and my friend’s houses.

Ground Cover

I am obsessed with Ajuga. The leaves on a single plant range from yellow, to green, to red, to brown. In the spring it sends up spikes with bright blueish purple flowers. It spends the rest of the year snaking all over the ground. My goal is to no longer mulch my larger bed, and instead have them covered in this interesting plant. I dig sections up, and transplant them all over the yard. It does well in drought-like conditions and bright sun, but does get very thick in shady areas. I have it growing along pathways, and it creeps over rock and up steps, making them appear softer and more natural.

How often do you need to water?

“If I’ve just planted something new, I make sure to give it a good saturation, as well as add in some plant food, like Miracle Grow. I’ll water again about 4 weeks later. Generally speaking, shoot for providing your gardens with 2 inches of water / week, unless your in a really dry climate, or haven’t had much rain.

Be sure to always apply water at the base of the plant. When water is resting on the leaves it can actually cause them to burn in the sun. If using hanging containers (like coconut pots), line your pots with a plastic bag with holes poked in it to hold in moisture longer.”

What are your go to gardening tools?

  • Miracle grow
  • Good pair of gloves

What are your favorite annuals?

  • Impatience
  • Begonias

What are your favorite perennials?

  • Day Lilies
  • Bee Balm

Day Lilies & Peonies

Day lilies are versatile plant that require very little maintenance. Their spiky, grass-like leaves add a lot of texture and the flowers come in several warm colors from reds to yellows. You can see a few yellow buds starting on these.Day lilies do well in both sun and shade. I like to use them as borders. Planting them along the edge of a bed offers some light structure, without being a harsh line like you may get from a hedge. I also like to use them to soften up corners. Where there would other wise be sharp edges and unnatural lines, they draw the away from the edges.

You can split day lilies each year, which means that one plant can turn into many. Most of my groupings started as one or two small plants that I cut in half each spring to create a full bunch, or a longer row.

Early June in the north means PEONIES!! I planted these cotton-candy pink beauties a few years ago, and they come out to shine each year. The blossoms are huge, and each plant has about a dozen on them. The great for cutting and brining inside, or taking to a friend. They do need support, so if you plant them, plan on getting a wire frame to help hold up the blooms. Mine are planted in an area that gets plenty of light, but are shaded from the intense afternoon sun.

What are your Tips for planting in containers?

“Pinterest is littered with detailed flower container designs that will demonstrate what pairs well together. Some common mistakes made when planting is using a container that is too small or doesn’t provide proper drainage. Don’t overcrowd your plants, they need space to grow. Give each seedling a good 6-8 inches to stretch its legs.”

How do you layout the plants in your containers?

“Remember these three words:

  • Thrill – One plant that thrills, a tall spike with some height to it
  • Fill – Include smaller plants that fill out around the pot
  • Spill – Add something like a vine that will trail out of the pot

This combination extends the pot, drawing the eyes from top to bottom.”

Shade Pot

This is a pot for a shady spot (my front porch). The light pink and lavender flowers in the middle are Impatients. They come in almost every color under the rainbow and have a deep green leaf. They LOVE the shade and HATE the sun.

Impatients can get a little “leggy”, so I added some begonias around the base of the pot to be sure it looks full throughout the summer. Since the pots are in the shade, the begonias will stay fairly small.

I also added a petunia variety (the deep purple flower) that is bread to cascade. It’s already spilling over the side of the pot searching for more sun, and will continue to do that all summer long. The same goes for the dark red/purple sweet potato vine that’s in the pot as well. This plant likes sun as well and will creep out of the pot looking for it. By the end of summer, I’ll be moving these pots further away from the walkway because there will be more spilling out than what is actually in the pot.

Sun Pots

This is a pot for a sunny location. It’s anchored with a coleus – the greenish-reddish-purpleish leafed plant. These get spikes of little flowers on them later in the year, but they provide a ton of color right off the bat. I always pick a few different varieties from the nursery each year. Coleus are full, and tall, making them great for adding height to your pots.

The base of the pot has a petunia hybrid (each area has different hybrids like this that are bread for the specific zone and conditions), you’ll see the deep purple flowers. In the sun, it’ll flow out of the pot, but will stay very full as the flowers reach up to face the sun. The other side holds a spreading geranium. It has a rigid leaf and stem, but is trained to flow. It too will stay full as it grows longer because the flowers will turn to face the sun.

This is another pot for a sunny location. It  has some Gerbera Daisies – the bright purple flowers standing tall – which are an annual in my zone. They get tall with and have a bright pop of color to top off the pot. Pink begonias fill the pot with color and fullness. I used a purple variety of the geranium hybrid to spill over the edge, along with a dark red/purple sweet potato vine that is really loving the sun right now and growing more up than out… but it’ll fall soon, cascading over the edge of the pot.

I used some wandering jew and tried it in this planter… and I’m loving it. It has a long, tear-drop shaped leaf that’s minty green, with a shock of purple down the center and on the edges. It lives up to its “wandering” name by crawling along the pot and over the edge. I’ll be picking up more of this next year!

Container Grouping

I plant lots ‘o pots each year. These are the groups that sit on my back patio soaking up the hot sun. I use pots of all different sizes and shapes to stack the colors and texture. Alone, each pot is pretty, but all together they look like an explosion of color. I like to sit next to them and watch the bees roll around in the pollen as I drink my coffee or read a book.

What other advice do you want to share?

“Your garden doesn’t need to be picture perfect, like the photos on magazine covers. It serves to make your space more beautiful. We put too much stock in how it’s “supposed to look”. Plant what you enjoy and makes you proud of your work. It’s a work in progress. Be patient. Enjoy it.”

Thank You!

I hope you enjoyed this recap of Katie & my Facebook Live interview. Thank you, again to Katie and Rachel for helping me share this awesome information with all of you. Are you motivated and inspired to get out in your gardens? I am! What are your favorite flowers to plant? Please share with us in the comments!

Written by: Amy Powell

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