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Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Making the Most of Your Home Garden

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By Grace Chen

Warm weather, delightful blossoms, and lush greenery enhance our enjoyment of the outdoors. Summer is the perfect time to reap the benefits and enjoy the beauty of a home garden! With a little planning and preparation, you can spend the summer months in a relaxing and wonderful outdoor oasis.

Choosing Flowers and Plants

Selecting the right plant life for your garden depends largely upon your locale. Within the United States, various regions, or plant-hardiness zones, have been identified by the Department of Agriculture based on average climate. These designations can help you choose the appropriate greenery and floral species for your area. Making the Most of Your Home Garden

Warmer climates tend to have more hours of direct sunlight daily and may also require heat-tolerant or drought-tolerant species. Common, full-sun species include lamb's ear, Shasta daisy, bluebeard, blue fescue, and coreopsis. Dianthus and thyme are especially hardy and drought tolerant. Ferns, bleeding heart, lily of the valley, and blue bells are excellent choices for full shade, while columbine, periwinkle, wax begonia, and coleus thrive in partial shade.

Attracting Birds and Butterflies

Using plants that appeal to birds and butterflies is another way to bring color and life to your garden. Butterflies enjoy plant life that provides nourishment to the developing caterpillar and nectar to the adult fly. Note that both are not always found on the same plant. Species that appeal to the larvae of common butterflies include daisy, vetch, and milkweed. Aster, zinnia, clover, dogbane, and, of course, butterfly bush will lure the adult. These sprightly spirits also need rest away from wind and a butterfly house offers a charming solution.

Flowering plants and fruiting shrubs are attractive to birds, especially if grouped in clusters, providing added security against predators. Bird-friendly varieties include snapdragon, goldenrod, American holly, and elderberry. Feeders invite more winged visitors, and an electronic bird caller can attract specific songbird species to your outdoor space.

Adding Motion with Water

Including a small pond or fountain enhances your garden space for both the eye and ear. The gentle lap of water creates both visual and auditory interest and promotes relaxation. Solar birdbaths can add aquatic beauty, provide necessary moisture for butterflies and birds, and help attract these desirable visitors.

To avoid mosquitoes, eliminate stagnant water and be sure that your birdbath is also a fountain. Consider a rain barrel, if they are legal in your area, to collect rain and save on your water bill while keeping your yard green.

Making it Comfortable and Fun

Adding seating and lights can make your garden an inviting place to spend time with friends and family. Choose a shaded location, and provide comfortable chairs or benches. Include small tables or trays to hold food and drinks during barbecues and picnics. Accent paths and other areas of interest with solar-powered landscape lighting.

Get the whole family involved in outdoor fun with activities and games. Badminton, volleyball, and croquet are time-tested favorites, and bird watching is entertaining and educational. If you have a pool, an inflatable jet ski or motorized bumper boat makes for fun in the sun.

Perhaps Candide, a character created by famed French philosopher Voltaire, offered truth in his closing words, "We must cultivate our garden." With the right plants, products and atmosphere, your home garden can become a beautiful, relaxing haven. Family and friends will enjoy your well-planned outdoor space this summer and in seasons to come.

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