Ready, Set, Grow

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A cottage garden is a glorious thing. It is filled with plants, wildlife and the gardener’s hopes and dreams. But where and how do you start?


Begin by defining your garden vision. Do you see bouquets of fresh cut flowers that you grew yourself or a quiet spot to sit with your morning coffee? Maybe you see beds filled with soft romantic blossoms or a  joyful riot of color. Whatever you see, write down the key words or collect pictures.This will be helpful when you fall in love with every single plant at the garden center. With your vision in mind, educate yourself. Knowledge is power. There are excellent resources you can readily access:  the Internet, YouTube and Instagram, books and magazines, garden center staff, plant tags, other gardeners, and your local N.C. Cooperative Extension, Henderson County Center. Assess your garden space. Learn the amount of sun or shade the site receives, your garden zone, and consider a soil test to determine what amendments you may need. Will your bed be viewed from one side because it is against a wall or fence? Will it be enjoyed from both sides in the case of a driveway or sidewalk bed? Do you have existing evergreens, pathways or a patio? Be realistic about the amount of maintenance you are willing to do. Start small and expand as you wish. There is no such thing as a “no maintenance” garden. There is either maintenance you do, maintenance you pay others to do, or maintenance you leave undone.

A lush garden bed.


With your garden vision in mind, create your wish list. Include evergreens and shrubs, perennials and annuals, herbs and bulbs. Don’t forget the practical elements of gardening such as:  tools, soil amendments, plant food, and mulch. Prepare your planting area. Begin by defining the planting bed, removing grass and weeds, and enriching the soil as needed. With your wish list in hand, head to a reputable nursery. Let your list guide you but not limit you. Peruse all the aisles before you begin making your selections. Start small, more plants will be available tomorrow. Take your time. Enjoy the possibilities.

A short garden bed with a decorative pot.


With your treasures gathered and plant beds prepared, lay out your plants in a way that is pleasing to your eye. Pay attention to heights, spacing, bloom time, growth habits, and leaf textures. Consider placement until it feels right, then prepare the hole. You are painting with plants. The information on the plant tags will prove very helpful. With experience you will learn which guidelines can be adjusted. Dig, plant, water-in and mulch. Watch your vision come to life. You will experience the magic of the first green shoots of spring, joy in the abundance of summer’s profusion, the gradual quietening of the garden in autumn, and the anticipation of the new garden season ahead that accompanies winter.

Wildflowers along the side of a path.

Enjoy the journey, there’s nothing like it.

Written by: Renita McDougal