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What to grow
Choosing the best flowers and plants for your garden

04/19/18



 If you’re new to gardening, or you’re planting a new garden from scratch, there are many things to consider when choosing your first flowers and plants. Two local garden club presidents shared their tips about how to start your garden off strong. 

 
First things first 
Nashua Garden Club president Lois Scotto said the first step to finding the perfect plants and flowers is to determine where you’re going to plant them, and what kind of environment that space or those spaces will provide. 
Consider how you’re going to water your plants. 
“Remember, you have to continue to care for these things after you plant them, so make sure you pick a space with a water source close enough to sufficiently water the plants,” Scotto said. 
Then, you’ll need to think about sunlight. 
Plants fall into three categories of sunlight requirement. Full-sun plants, such as marigolds or petunias, need at least six hours of sunlight per day. Partial-sun or partial-shade plants need between four and six hours, and full-shade plants, such as impatiens and begonias, need less than four hours. 
“Go out to where you’re going to plant these things and try to figure out how much sun that area gets,” Scotto said. “That’s the most important thing that will help you make decisions about what plants to purchase.” 
 
Annuals or perennials 
Most flowers and plants can be grouped into two main growing categories: annuals and perennials. An annual will only grow and survive for one season, while a perennial will regrow on its own for multiple seasons. There are pros and cons to each, which is why your best bet is to plant a combination of the two. 
“Perennials are nice because you don’t need to spend the money to get new ones every year like you do for annuals,” Scotto said. “The advantage to annuals, though, is that they flower for the entire season that they’re planted. You get more bang for your buck. Perennials may return year after year, but they don’t flower for as long during the flowering season.” 
Decide how many annuals and perennials you want to plant, then make a list of ones that appeal to you. 
Some annuals that grow well in this region, Scotto said, include marigolds, pansies, begonias, impatiens and geraniums. 
For perennials, Colonial Garden Club of Hollis president Suzie Greco recommends echinacea, daylilies, rudbeckia (also known as black-eyed susans), salvia and sedums. 
Do some research about the plants on your list to find out what kind of sunlight environment they require, and narrow down your list to plants that your garden space can accommodate. 
 
Seeds, bulbs or grown plants 
Once you’ve chosen your plants and flowers, you’ll need to decide whether you want to plant them from seed, bulb or a grown stage. 
If you’re a newbie gardener or want a low-maintenance garden with instant results, Greco recommends buying a plant that is already grown and replanting it in your own garden. 
“That’s definitely the easiest way,” she said. “Let someone else do the difficult work of growing it. Then, all you have to do is pop it in the ground, and you’re off.” 
Growing from a bulb is the next easiest option. 
“Basically, a bulb is the base of the plant that sits just above [ground] with a root system that stores energy that sits below it,” Scotto said. 
Bulbs are available primarily for perennials such as lilies, blue scilla, alliums and tulips. Most bulbs are best planted in the fall, Greco said, because they require a cold period to grow and flower, but there are some bulbs, such as dahlias and gladiolus, that can be planted in the spring. 
The most challenging way to start growing your plants and flowers is from seed. While there are certain annuals that are easy to grow from seed, such as sunflowers, coreopsis and cosmos, perennials are often difficult. Most garden centers or garden catalogs will label their seeds according to their level of growing difficulty. If you’ve never grown plants from seed before, you should get seeds labeled as “easy.” 
“Starting from seed takes some time and expertise and experience,” Scotto said. “It’s not impossible, but it’s definitely harder for a beginner.” 
But that doesn’t mean you should avoid seeds altogether, Greco said. After all, the only way to acquire that expertise is to give it a try. 
“Growing them [from seed] on your own and experimenting with different things can be fun,” she said. “It’s a learning process. Eventually, you learn what works and what doesn’t.” 





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