In a recent issue of Smith Mountain Laker Magazine, garden photographer, speaker and author Catriona Tudor Erler shares some of her knowledge and experience to help you create an amazing array of flowers around your own home. If the natural beauty exuding from every pore of Smith Mountain Lake compels you to want landscaping to match, follow this expert advice for a fabulous flower frenzy!
Erler recommends these following tips:
If you are not in a hurry, you could collect some organic materials-make sure compost, leaves, rotted manure, and weed-free straw are included in the mixture-and spread at least 5-6 inches on top of the existing soil. Let the worms do all the digging, while the decomposition of the materials will be improving your soil. In a couple of years, it will be ideal for planting.
For more immediate results, till the organic material into the existing soil yourself. If dealing with an area that has a lot of stones, it may be necessary to remove an area of at least 10-12 inches and replace it with a high-quality top soil. However, buyer beware as the quality control of top soil around SML leaves something to be desired. Erler's personal experience has been a delivery of river bottom sand, almost nutrient-free, that hardened into a concrete of sorts, and another was a delivery of clay. So choose your supplier carefully!
The challenge of creating your beautiful utopia with minimal care is to work smarter, not harder. Erler advises selecting some perennials that can bloom for long periods, survive with little or no rain at times and are low maintenance.
Geranium ‘Rozanne'-while not deer resistant-are worth protecting because of their garden performance of flowering in early summer and continuing until frost. Helenium ‘Sahin's Early Flowerer' will grow as high as 2-3 feet and is deer resistant. Border the flower bed with blanket flowers such as Gaillardia ‘Oranges and Lemons'. Next to the Geranium ‘Rozanne' and against the background of the lake is a perfect setting.
Don't Forget the Foliage
Even flowers need a little down time, so while not blooming, offset the garden with foliage. Great possibilities are Hemerocallis ‘Golden Zebra', Heliopsis ‘Loraine Sunshine' and Cimicifuga ‘Hillside Black Beauty. Take advantage of the recent hybridizing of coral bells. With such a variety of foliage colors and typical availability at The Growing Place in Wirtz, there is nothing stopping you!
Other forms of flower and foliage are provided with shrubs which also fulfill the need for mass. Try Loropetalum ‘Purple Diamond, Sambucus ‘Black Lace' and Weigela ‘Eyecatcher' to start.
"Reach for the sky," says Erler. Don't have everything the same height in the flower bed. Create some dimension with vertical elements by adding supports for vines to grow up tall, the shrubs will help and try some trees too. A few evergreen shrubs can even keep some green through the winter; one idea is a fastigiated conifer.
A final suggestion for this eye-tantalizing feast of flowers is repetition of planting patterns in the border. Keep in mind that alternating the blooming varieties and the foliage will create rhythm and balance in your design.
For more resources on fabulous landscaping around your home or assistance in buying lakefront property, call me, Vicki Millehan. I have over 19 years of experience selling waterfront homes, and am a long-time resident of Smith Mountain Lake.