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What Is the Difference Between an Annual, a Perennial, and a Biennial?

All living creatures, including plants and flowers, have expected lifespans. Recognizing the differences between annuals, perennials, and biennials can help you determine the life expectancies of different garden center plants so you can choose the varieties that will work best in your garden, landscape, and containers. 

Annuals

Annual plants are fairly straightforward. These plants complete their entire lifespan in just one year or growing season, from first sprouting from seeds and growing foliage, stems, and blooms to creating seeds to continue the next generation. After the plants die, they will not regrow from their initial roots, but must restart from seeds again as completely new plants. Annuals are generally faster growing and have longer bloom seasons, making them colorful showstoppers in the garden and landscape.

Common and popular annuals include…

  • Begonias
  • Cosmos
  • Impatiens
  • Marigolds
  • Petunias
  • Zinnias

In addition to many popular flowers, most garden vegetables are also grown as annuals, though some of them would botanically be classified as perennials if they were allowed to remain in place for multiple years.

Perennials

Perennial plants are those with a lifespan that lasts at least three years, though they can live significantly longer as well. Perennial foliage may die back during the winter months but will regrow from dormant roots the next season. These plants often take longer to mature and may have shorter blossom times than annuals, but they can provide many years of beauty in the landscape.

Familiar perennials include…

  • Coneflowers
  • Coral bells
  • Daylilies
  • Peonies
  • Phlox
  • Sedum

In addition to these elegant and popular flowers, hedges and trees are also perennials. These plants are staples in the yard and provide a foundation for any landscape.

Biennials

Biennials fall between annuals and perennials with a two-year life cycle. During their first year, these plants establish leaves, roots, and stems. Though they may die back slightly over the winter, they will rejuvenate in the spring and grow flowers in their second year, maturing to seeds before the plants die completely.

Familiar biennial flowers include…

  • Canterbury bells
  • Columbine
  • Dame’s rocket
  • Forget-me-nots
  • Foxglove
  • Hollyhocks

Because these plants do not bloom in their first year, patience is essential to enjoy their beauty in their second year. Planting biennials in two successive years can ensure the plants enhance the landscape in multiple years.

Choosing Annuals, Perennials, and Biennials for Your Yard

Once you understand plant lifespans, you can more easily choose the plants that will give you a landscape you love. When choosing plants, larger perennials can create a stunning foundation or border for your yard, including showstopping specimen plants and shade trees. Smaller perennials can fill in larger spaces in flowerbeds and edging, while annuals add brilliant color to pathways, edges, and very visible spaces, including porch pots and containers.

Biennials can be spectacular transition plants, particularly if you may plan on expanding your landscaping beds in the future, or want to fill in a space temporarily before adding a new deck, porch, or otherwise expanding your home or outdoor living space. Biennials are also great choices if you want to enjoy a changing landscape without as much work each year, because you can enjoy the plants for two years before they need replacing. Many biennials are self-seeding making them great additions to the cottage garden.

Ultimately, a landscape that includes a thoughtful mix of annuals, perennials, and biennials will showcase different colors, textures, and growth patterns for stunning visual interest. New cultivars are developed every year, and greenhouses often have the latest plants and newest showstoppers on display. If you plan a mixed landscape, you will have the freedom to enjoy new plants as they are introduced and you will always have new plants to be excited about.

Caring for Annuals, Perennials, and Biennials

While the differences between annuals, perennials, and biennials may seem clear, different plants can have different lifespans based on the exact cultivar, gardening zone, climate variations, and even microclimates within an individual landscape. Furthermore, the care plants receive can ensure they reach their maximum potential for the longest, most productive life. YOUR GARDEN CENTER (insert IGC here) experts can provide recommendations and guidance for the best plants based on your preferences and needs and assist you in choosing plants that will thrive in the conditions of your yard, including soil type, sunlight levels, fertilization, moisture levels, and other needs. To provide each type of plant the best care, consider…

  • Annuals – Provide nourishing fertilizer formulated for the type of plant, and weed around them carefully so these fast-growing plants don’t need to compete for moisture and nutrition. Soaker or dripper hoses can also provide great watering as these plants flourish.
  • Perennials – Be sure these plants have adequate space in the landscape to reach their full size. Good quality mulch can help protect the roots each winter so the plants remain healthy for the next spring.
  • Biennials – Take care to provide appropriate fertilizer for these plants in their different life stages, and mulch around those with basal leaves to provide good winter protection during their dormancy.

Adding annuals, perennials, and biennials to your landscape will not only help you learn about plant lifespans, but you will enjoy a more varied and richly diverse landscape, with plants that provide beauty through the years.

Easter Plant Guide

Easter is a season of rebirth and renewed growth in the garden, and many beautiful plants can be lovely gifts to celebrate this spring holiday. Whether you want to give plants as thoughtful Easter gifts to friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers, caregivers, teachers, or any other special person, or even just enjoy the plants yourself, this Easter plant guide can help you choose the best options to spread seasonal cheer.

Before You Choose a Plant

When giving a plant as a gift for any occasion, consider the recipient’s needs and preferences to be sure the gift will be suitable. Is that someone special able to care for a larger potted plant, or would a smaller one be more appropriate? What are that person’s favorite plants or flowers, or what are their favorite colors? Do they have an interest in cultivating houseplants, or are they more suited to receive a potted plant that can be added to their garden or landscape?

By taking those factors into consideration, you can choose the best Easter plant to be a welcome and thoughtful gift, one that will demonstrate the season’s beauty and nature’s freshness long after Easter weekend has passed.

Top 10 Easter Plants

There are many choices for attractive Easter plants that can be wonderful gifts and attractive seasonal accents. The top plants associated with spring and Easter include…

  1. Easter Lily
    The large, upright Easter lily plant is always a favorite in spring with its bold foliage and peaceful white blooms. This plant can come in single or multiple blooms depending on the size of the plant and is typically offered as a potted plant.
  2. Lily-of-the-Valley
    The delicate bell-shaped flowers of lily-of-the-valley are an early sign of spring, and these plants can be grown in containers or planted as groundcovers in areas with partial shade. They will spread rapidly, filling in an area with their fragrant blossoms.
  3. Calla Lily
    These elegant blooms have a modern, sophisticated flair and are available in both large and miniature varieties. Calla lilies come in many colors, from rich purples, reds, and pinks to paler shades of yellow, ivory, and white, offering choices for anyone’s favorite hues.
  4. Daffodil
    A classic spring flower, the sprightly daffodil is an early blooming bulb and easy to grow in containers of different sizes, making it ideal for a gift. Available in yellows and whites, this is a cheerful flower always suitable for Easter, and can be a cut flower as well.
  5. Tulip
    Tulips come in a wide range of amazing colors and variegated shades, so it is easy to find the perfect potted tulip bulb or cut tulips for anyone’s tastes. There are even variations in size and petal shape for even more uniqueness for these stunning flowers.
  6. Miniature Rose
    Roses are familiar flowers, and miniature rose bushes are a fun Easter gift for anyone who loves their beautiful aroma. Different colors and rose varieties are available for these potted gifts, and they make great houseplants year-round.
  7. Crocus
    Another classic, early-blooming spring bulb, crocuses are compact and ideal for containers, either alone or paired with other spring bulbs. Available in several different colors, these flowers can create a lovely pot for a gift arrangement.
  8. Hydrangea
    Large, bold flowers with multiple blooms in a bundle, hydrangeas are stunners as cut flowers as well as planted in the landscape. These flowers come in calming spring shades of pastel pink, blue, and purple, as well as soft white hues and pale greens.
  9. Hyacinth
    A colorful bulb that blooms in upright bundles, hyacinths come in bold colors as well as more classic spring shades. These are great flowers for containers and can easily be planted to bring color to the landscape for many years to come.
  10. Easter Cactus
    A close relative of the Christmas cactus, this succulent features fleshy, lobed foliage and colorful blooms that appear in spring. This plant is an easy-care choice and can live for many years in suitable containers.

While these plants may be classic options for Easter, any plant can be a wonderful gift to share the joy of the season or to decorate a table, mantle, windowsill, entryway, or other household niche. Another option, particularly in regions with long, severe, winters, is to give seeds as an Easter gift so they are ready to be planted as soon as spring does arrive, even if the holiday is too early for planting.

Giving a Plant for Easter

No matter what plant, bulb, or flower may be used as an Easter plant, a bit of decorative flair can tie it to the season and make it more festive. Opt for a fun, spring-themed pot in a bright hue, or one with a whimsical floral or Easter pattern. Adding an Easter ribbon or plant pick to an arrangement can give it a holiday touch, or pair the gift with additional items, such as a new pair of garden gloves, ergonomic hand tools, or a garden knee pad for even more usefulness as the gardening season warms. Be sure the plant itself is in prime condition just before being presented as a gift by pruning away any spent foliage or bruised blooms, and water it a day or two before the presentation so it is as fresh and lush as possible. This extra care will ensure the plant is healthy and able to be enjoyed for the entire Easter weekend, and the good thoughts and best wishes that accompany it will last long past the holiday.

The Praying Mantis in Your Garden

This insect can be large and intimidating, but the praying mantis in your garden is a guest to welcome and celebrate, not one to fear or eliminate. Understanding these beneficial insects can help every gardener realize just how useful praying mantids can be.

About the Praying Mantis 

There are more than 2,400 species of praying mantis in the world, and they are found in all types of temperate and tropical climates. These large insects range from 2-5 inches in length, and have long, tapered bodies, triangular heads, bulging compound eyes, long jointed forelegs, and semi-upright posture. Their colors range from different shades of green to brown and tan, which serves as excellent camouflage to protect them in their foliage habitats.

Praying mantids have been found as fossils as old as 135 million years, and they’ve evolved to be very efficient insect predators. The average praying mantis lives for just a few months or up to a year, depending on the climate, and females generally lay their eggs in the fall. The egg cases are dormant through the winter, but will hatch in spring so a new generation of praying mantids can be part of the garden.

What a Praying Mantis Eats

These are carnivorous insects that eat a wide range of other insects. Praying mantids are ambush predators, lying in wait and watching carefully for a succulent bite to come within reach of their fast, powerful forelegs. When suitable prey approaches, they will quickly strike, spearing their meal with their sharp, jagged legs.

As generalist predators, praying mantids will eat just about anything they can catch, including aphids, leafhoppers, mosquitos, crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, and flies. Because mantids will hunt at night as well as during they day, they often prey on moths as well. Larger varieties of mantids may also even hunt small lizards, frogs, salamanders, and even hummingbirds.

Gardeners must remember, however, that praying mantids are generalists and do not discriminate about the prey they catch. While they will eat a wide range of insects that can be harmful in the garden, they are just as likely to eat more helpful visitors, including bees, ladybugs, and butterflies. Despite their hearty appetites, however, praying mantids are part of nature’s ecological balance and can be valuable to have in the garden.

Attracting Praying Mantids to Your Garden

A praying mantis can be a very helpful insect in the garden as it eats a wide range of other insects, helping keep different bug populations in check. Attracting mantids is not difficult, but they do require sufficient shrubby foliage for shelter and adequate hunting grounds. Rose and raspberry plants are especially attractive to mantids, and tall grasses are also good praying mantis plants. Foliage should be kept intact rather than severely pruned, and chemical use ought to be minimized, particularly in fall when the females are laying their egg cases, which are more sensitive to pesticides. Organic gardens are the best options and most welcoming landscapes for mantids.

If your garden is not naturally home to praying mantids, you can easily introduce these large insects into your garden’s ecosystem. Egg cases are available for purchase that can yield up to 200-300 young mantids each when they hatch, though of course the mortality of young mantids is quite high. Egg cases can be purchased online or from garden centers and nurseries that offer different beneficial insects. When you receive egg cases, position them in sheltered crooks and crotches of trees and shrubs, ideally in warmer locations with filtered sunlight. The cases will hatch after 10-15 days of warm weather, and the young mantids can disperse throughout the landscape within an hour of hatching.

As you work in your garden throughout the summer, you may occasionally come across a mature praying mantis lying in wait for its next meal. These insects pose no harm to humans, and only rarely bite if stressed and threatened. The best action is to leave the insect as it is, or if it must be moved, gently relocate it to a patch of foliage in a quiet area. Ideally, relocate mantids away from butterfly host plants or active bee colonies to minimize their impact on other beneficial insects.

A praying mantis is a great guest to see in your garden, and their voracious appetites can help provide natural pest control to keep less welcome insects at bay. By understanding these large, carnivorous bugs better, it is easy to provide exactly what they need in your garden and ensure they can fill their own ecological role admirably.

Protecting Your Sprinklers From Winter Damage

Every gardener recognizes the importance of protecting new plants, delicate roots, and tender buds from the ravages of cold, snow, and ice. While it is critical to safeguard your plants from the cold, it is equally critical to protect your sprinklers from winter damage as well, or you risk not being able to properly water your garden, flowerbeds, and landscape when winter passes and temperatures rise.

How Winter Can Damage Sprinklers

Cold and ice can be brutally destructive to pipes, spigots, and sprinkler heads. As water freezes, it expands, increasing the pressure on joints and seals. With enough pressure, cracks and breaks can develop, interrupting the water flow in your irrigation system. Depending on the size of the crack, a leak could create slow seepage that will lead to root rot and could create foundation problems for your home, garage, shed, or other structure, depending on where the leak is located. Wider cracks or big breaks can create flooding that will wash away fertilizers, upset the soil balance, and drown plants.

Not only can water freeze and create problems in your sprinkler system, but frost heave in the soil around pipes can also cause small cracks and minor breaks. Sprinkler heads may also suffer from damage, both from freezing as well as potential impacts from snow blowers, plows, or other snow removal equipment.

How to Protect Your Sprinklers in Winter

Fortunately, it is easy to take the appropriate steps to keep your sprinklers from suffering when the temperature drops. While it is best to winterize your sprinkler system in autumn before there is risk of hard frosts or freezes, it is never too late to take precautionary measures to keep your sprinklers intact through a cold snap.

Before you take any measures to protect your sprinklers, read your owner’s manual for the proper winterizing procedures. If you do not have the manual, contact the sprinklers’ manufacturer for information, or ask an experienced sprinkler installation or repair technician for their recommendations. While some winterizing steps are relatively foolproof, it can be all too easy to damage your sprinklers if you accidentally use methods that are too vigorous or unsuitable for your system.

In general, when you want to protect your sprinklers from winter damage, you should…

  • Shut off the main water valve to the sprinkler system, if you have such a valve. If your system is older and there is no main valve, consider updating the system to have one installed so you can have this type of control over the water flow.
  • Disconnect all external hoses and other accessories, drain them, and store them safely in a shed or garage until they will be needed again in spring. This will keep these accessories from suffering damage that could impact spigots and faucets.
  • Drain your entire sprinkler system. This may involve manually opening drain valves, using a drain or winterize setting on an automatic controller, or using compressed air to blow out the pipes and remove standing water. Remove as much water as possible but take care not to use too much compressed air pressure that could rupture pipes or seals.
  • Drain the vacuum breaker, bleeder valves, or test cocks if those features are part of your sprinkler system. Follow instructions for draining these fixtures carefully to ensure complete drainage without risking damage.
  • Insulate any exposed pipes, valves, spigots, or backflow fixtures. Foam blankets or tape, Styrofoam covers, or foam rolls are all suitable options. Be sure all the exposed metal or piping is adequately covered, and that the insulation is secure so it won’t be torn off by the wind.
  • Insulate your sprinkler heads throughout your lawn. This is a step many gardeners forget, but adding a thick pile of straw, mulch, or grass clippings over the sprinkler heads and weighing it down with a couple of rocks will help protect these delicate, exposed fixtures.
  • Turn off the main control panel for your sprinkler system so it will not automatically attempt to cycle through the watering program. Depending on your system, you may be able to opt for a “rain” “winter” or “off” setting without deleting zone program settings.
  • Use flags or other markers to note where your sprinkler heads are located where they are near sidewalks, driveways, or other areas that may be at risk in winter. If you will shovel, plow, or use a snowblower near sprinkler heads, you want to be sure you don’t accidentally run over them, which could cause cracks or other damage.

By taking multiple steps to protect your sprinklers from winter damage, you can ensure that you’ll be ready and able to water your garden, flowerbeds, and landscape in early spring, just when new plants need an extra drink. Inspect your irrigation system carefully before you start it up in spring, just to ensure there is no damage, and make any repairs as needed before you begin your regular watering regimen. With proper care, your sprinklers will be ready and able to go as soon as they’re needed.

Peace Interrupters to Remove From Your Garden

Your garden can be your sanctuary, a place for gentle focus, restoration, and connection with yourself and the natural world around you. Despite your best efforts to create a calm oasis in your garden, however, it is easy to get distracted and sidetracked by little annoyances and problems. Removing these peace interrupters doesn’t have to be difficult, and doing so can return your garden to the soothing sanctuary you desire.

What Is a Peace Interrupter?

Anything that causes a distraction in the garden can be considered a peace interrupter. If it raises your stress instead of helping you center and calm yourself, it is a peace interrupter. These distractions can be different for every gardener, depending on the type of garden you have, how you like it maintained, what season it is, and what causes you stress. It is up to you to decide what distractions you want to eliminate from your garden in order to increase its peacefulness and enhance your personal relaxation.

Top 10 Peace Interrupters in the Garden

While everyone may have a different idea of what makes a peaceful garden, these top 10 interrupters are almost universally considered problems. Fortunately, it’s easy to eliminate each one to make your garden a more peaceful place.

  1. Weeds – Weeds are found in nearly every garden as they take over any bare space and crowd out more desirable plants. Pulling weeds is a common way to remove them, and if you keep up on the task, it doesn’t have to be much of a chore. Adding thicker layers of mulch or using barriers such as weed control fabric are good options for controlling weeds. Ground covers can also keep weeds out of your garden while adding even more beautiful plants to the space.
  2. Invasive Plants – While they may not always be weeds, invasive plants can have the same effect on a garden as they push out your carefully cultivated plants and take over every space they can reach. Take care when choosing new cultivars to be sure you’re not accidentally introducing invasive plants to your garden. Judicious pruning and trimming plants can help keep them under control, or invasive plants may need to be dug out and completely removed.
  3. Harmful Insects – There are many beneficial insects that can bring joy to your garden, but harmful insects can damage plants. Aphids, slugs, grubs, Japanese beetles, and other bothersome bugs can be controlled by picking them off, or using other control methods such as pesticide soaps and sprays, or encouraging birds to provide natural pest control.
  4. Unwelcome Wildlife – Many gardeners welcome wildlife visits and find joy and peace in the company of their animal guests, but unwelcome wildlife such as feral cats, hungry rabbits, burrowing voles, and scavenging raccoons can dig up gardens and destroy the beauty you’ve created. Keep this wildlife out with barriers or opt for plants that are resistant to their attention.
  5. Sour Smells – Every garden is filled with aromas, from freshly turned dirt to sprinkles of summer rain to the fragrant booms of flowers. Less pleasant odors such as rotting fruit or unhealthy compost, however, can wrinkle noses and make a garden anything but enjoyable. Eliminate bad odors by picking up windfall fruit regularly, turning compost so it can decay properly, and planting lusciously fragrant flowers and herbs to add more pleasing scents to your sanctuary.
  6. Diseases – Gardeners love to see their plants thrive, but when funguses, rots, and other diseases strike, a garden can be anything but peaceful. Providing good care to plants can minimize the risk of diseases, including choosing healthy plants to bring to your garden, pruning them appropriately, and ensuring they have the proper amounts of water, sunshine, and fertilizer as needed. Be aware of changes in your plants and treat any signs of disease as soon as they appear.
  7. Noise – Depending on where your garden is located, you may be subject to traffic sounds, a rattling air conditioner, a neighbor’s barking dog, or other intrusive noises. Adding muffling landscaping, such as extra shrubbery around the garden, can help remove noises, or use a fountain, rain chain, or wind chimes to add your own pleasing, peaceful sounds to the garden instead.
  8. Peeking Eyes – It can be hard to relax when you feel there are always prying eyes watching you in your garden. If your garden is close to a sidewalk or a neighbor’s yard, it may feel nearly impossible to improve your privacy, but adding a green wall, tall ornamental grasses, or extra fencing can give you the seclusion you desire for your sanctuary.
  9. Standing Water – Water is great for a garden when it nourishes your plants, fills a bird bath, or flows through a fountain, but standing, stagnant water can be a problem. Mosquitos and other annoying insects breed in stagnant water, and water standing on a pathway makes mud and can contribute to root rot of nearby plants. Improving drainage can help remove standing water, and you should check your irrigation system to be sure there are no leaks or seepage.
  10. Pain – Your garden should bring you joy, but pain can interrupt that peace when your back, knees, fingers, and other joints ache every time you work in the garden. Using ergonomic tools and accessories such as knee pads or kneeling benches can help you work in your garden without hurting. Adding a cozy bench or other seating in a peaceful niche can give you a wonderful place for a rest so you can enjoy your garden more easily.

Gaining Peace From Peace Interrupters

No matter how many peace interrupters you may have in your garden, you can still find peace. Removing these disturbances can be relaxing and rejuvenating as you make good progress toward your goal and see how much healthier your garden is becoming. As you work to remove peace interrupters, take deliberate time to note how your garden is changing and focus on the positive improvements you are making. Before you know it, your garden will truly be your personal sanctuary, offering you a calm oasis to immerse yourself in no matter what else life may bring.

Beyond the Wreath: Plants to Decorate Your Doors

A wreath can be a beautiful accent to your home and a friendly way to welcome guests. The classic circle of green boughs may not be best for your door, however, as it may not complement your door’s style or reflect your personal flair. Fortunately, there are many stunning alternative plants and unique arrangements that can decorate your doors for any season or occasion.

12 Unique Plants as Amazing Door Decorations

There is no limit to the types of plants you can use for door decorations. The color and style of your door, the season, and what plants you have available in your garden or landscaping will help you decide on the best design options. Consider such attractive choices as…

  1. One Big Bloom – A large, showy bloom can be beautifully displayed in a hanging vase or mason jar for a simple but elegant decoration. Mammoth sunflowers, proteas, or hydrangeas are striking options, or you might combine smaller blooms into a kissing ball decoration to hang from a wreath hook or door handle instead.
  2. Herb Bundles – A rustic bundle of herbs is an attractive and fragrant way to welcome guests to your home. Rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, basil, lavender, and other herbs with rich aromas are good choices, and sprigs or stalks can be bound with a simple ribbon, piece of raffia, or twine to be hung as a door decoration.
  3. Branches and Berries – Twigs and branches can be beautiful decorations, especially when you opt for branches with twisty structures or colorful bark and pair them with sprigs of berries. Another option is colorful foliage such as forsythia paired with contrasting berries. Bundle a group of branches and berries together just like you would herbs to hang on the door, or add them to a porch pot.
  4. Glorious Grains – Another rustic option for door decorating is a sheaf of grains, such as wheat, millet, or grasses. Choose varieties with variegated foliage for a pop of color, and put them in a hanging mason jar, small clay pot, or hanging wicker basket for the best display. Add a colorful ribbon as an accent if desired.
  5. Succulent Structures – Succulent gardens can take all forms, including vertical arrangements in a wreath-like or letter shape to accent your door. Plant small, complementary succulents in a shallow frame and tuck them in firmly before hanging the arrangement vertically to create an eye-catching decoration that will make your entrance stand out.
  6. Basket Plantings – A flattened or semi-circle hanging basket is ideal for planting all sorts of flowers and foliage, or you can tuck moist floral foam or peat moss into the basket to support cut flowers. Any flowers you’d arrange in a vase can be put into the basket and used as a door decoration, giving you great flexibility to change the look for different seasons or holidays.
  7. Stunning Swags – Larger swags are a classic wreath alternative for door decorations. These bundles are often filled with pine boughs or other evergreen options, topped with a decorative ribbon for secure hanging. Autumn leaves, berry sprigs, and pine cones can be tucked into the greenery, or you can experiment with completely different plants for any look you want.
  8. Buckets of Bulbs – A small tin pot or bucket is a sweet little planter for spring bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, and crocuses, and it can easily be hung on your door for a colorful welcome. Alternative containers such as rubber rain boots or gardening shoes, large garden gloves, or a tin watering can are other fun options that can support colorful bulbs.
  9. Magnificent Mosses – Mosses are often overlooked in gardening and landscaping, but they’re hardy plants that can easily be used with vertical door decorations such as frames, letter shapes, or vine wreaths. Tuck the mosses into the structure and mist them occasionally to keep them vibrantly green and welcoming.
  10. Wood Slices – If you’ve pruned thicker branches or had to cut down a tree, reuse slices of the branches or trunk to create rustic decorations for your door. Slices can be grouped into letter or wreath shapes, and you might use wood burning tools to create a welcome sign, initials, or other messages. Larger slices could be used individually for dramatic impact.
  11. Corner Creations – Instead of focusing on the center of your door, consider creating right-angle arrangements to accent corners. This will allow you to elegantly decorate your door without blocking a window, peephole, or knocker, and you can use tapering plants to lead away from each corner for a dramatic and elegant arrangement.
  12. Vibrant Vines – If you don’t have much of a porch or entryway, you can create one with an arbor and your favoring climbing vines. Simply situate the arbor or archway near to the door, and plant wisteria, trumpet vine, ivies, honeysuckle, star jasmine, clematis, or other great growers to fill in the structure. This will create a stunning entryway in no time.

Ready to decorate your door with style? Check out your local garden center for the right pruning shears, floral wire, wreath forms, twine, hanging baskets, and other essentials to add a welcoming and festive accent to your door so you can welcome all your guests with your own personal gardening flair.

Add a Calming Corner to Your Garden

Our gardens are many things – a source of food with fresh vegetables, a place to harvest tasty seasonings from fresh herbs, a beautiful tableau with stunning flowerbeds, a nurturing habitat with shelter for birds, bees, and other wildlife, and so much more. With all these things come a lot of work, the planning, dirt, and sweat necessary for the garden to thrive. All that work is worthwhile for a productive garden, but you can go beyond just simple productivity when you add one more thing to your garden – a calming corner.

What Is a Calming Corner?

A calming corner is a deliberate space you set aside in your garden to nurture more than plants. It is a place for joy, relaxation, and refreshment to nurture your mental well-being, in whatever way you enjoy the most. Unlike the obligations of the rest of your garden, your calming corner is just for your enjoyment and any work you put into creating and maintaining it is a labor of love rather than a necessary chore.

Designing Your Calming Corner

Everyone’s calming corner will be different, and yours should be unique to you, including what you enjoy and what you find most peaceful in the garden. It is an opportunity for you to express the creativity of your green thumb and your growing soul, to bring to your garden the exact things that help you enjoy gardening. When planning your special garden retreat, consider…

  • Location – Ideally, choose a comfortable, easily accessible place for your calming corner. It should be out of view of any unpleasant or distracting sights, such as trash cans, compost piles, busy streets, or other distractions that could make it less enjoyable. Similarly, choose a quieter corner if possible so unwanted sounds don’t intrude on your calm space.
  • Sounds – Just as you may want to choose a quiet space for your calming corner, it can also be helpful to incorporate pleasing sounds into your design, especially if there is nearby traffic, machinery, or other noise that may need to be covered. A wind chime or burbling fountain can add soothing tones to your calming corner, giving you happy sounds to hear whenever you visit.
  • Shade – Consider your comfort when planning your calming corner. If you want a sunny oasis, be sure there are no overhanging plants or trees to interrupt your rays. If you prefer a shady retreat, consider adding a sheltering arbor or other option for cooling shade to keep this corner of your garden more comfortable.
  • Plants – While you may normally choose garden plants based on their practicality – proper zone, best productivity, etc. – your calming corner is your opportunity to choose plants with just one purpose – to make you happy. Opt for plants you’re excited about, or plants you’ve always wanted to try so they will make you smile every time you see them.
  • Colors – You can use color in many ways to create a calming atmosphere in this part of your garden. You might choose cool, restful blue or pale blooms, or opt for a variety of green shades for a rich tapestry of natural tones. But don’t limit yourself – if rainbow hues make you smile, plant a rainbow to enjoy, or choose your favorite color to accent your own special corner.
  • Textures – To really immerse yourself in your calming corner, consider adding plants with a variety of pleasing textures. This might be fuzzy foliage to feel with your fingertips or springy ground covers under your feet, or even just twisty branches, papery bark, or delicate ferns to create a canvas of visual texture that engages your eyes.
  • Scents – Pleasing aromas can welcome you to this secluded space in your garden if you opt for plants that offer sweet scents. Different flowers and herbs let off a range of aromas, and the more senses you incorporate into your calming corner, the more inclusive the experience will be and the more enjoyment you’ll find whenever you visit this part of your garden.
  • Rest – Adding a place to rest and enjoy your calming corner is essential to make the most of the space. If you practice yoga or pilates, you might want to have enough room to make these movements in the garden. A hammock for an afternoon nap, a bench for a simple rest, or a swing for soothing sways are all great options to give yourself a place to rest in this special spot.
  • Visitors – You may prefer to be alone in this restful spot in your garden, but wildlife guests can still be welcome. If you do enjoy their company, add a bird bath or feeder, toad house, or butterfly waterer to the space to invite guests that can make you smile. You might even consider a bat house, bee hotel, nectar feeder, or other special treat for wildlife.
  • Decorative Accents – Don’t be afraid to inject your personality into this part of your garden with your favorite decorative accents. A fun, welcoming flag, a whimsical gnome, stepping stones with handprints of children or grandchildren, or even a tiny fairy garden can all be part of this corner. So long as these accents make you smile, then they’re right where they belong.

Most important is that every aspect of your calming corner brings you joy in the garden. Even when you put in the necessary labor – pruning, weeding, shaping, transplanting, repotting, etc. – to keep your corner attractive, it should be relaxing to get your hands dirty to make this one spot your very own. Take the time to enjoy all parts of this corner, breathing deeply and relishing this delightful spot as your personal retreat, and every moment will be worthwhile.

Position Your Houseplants for the Best Effects

The benefits of houseplants are well known: they help eliminate odors and freshen the air, reduce stress, boost productivity, improve humidity, and lower background noise. But you won’t get the full positive effects of your houseplants if you aren’t very deliberate and thoughtful about where you position each plant. In the right spot, you can enjoy even more benefits from every plant in your home.

Positioning Houseplants for Their Benefit

To get the most from your houseplants, it is important to position each plant so it can reach its full growth potential. A healthy plant will have lush foliage, rich color, and beautiful blooms, and the proper position will help keep each plant healthy. When considering where to place each plant, give careful thought to…

  • Light – Every houseplant needs proper sunlight exposure, but not all plants require the same amount or type of light. Some plants thrive in direct sunlight, while others need indirect, filtered light to avoid burning. Consider the number of hours each plant will receive in each location, bearing in mind how sun exposure changes in different seasons.
  • Temperature – Most houseplants are chosen because they can grow well in typical household temperatures, but keep in mind how you like the temperature in your home. If you prefer a warmer or colder home, you may need to choose houseplants that will grow best in those temperatures. Also factor in potential drafts, warmth, or chills from nearby windows and doors.
  • Humidity – Most homes have very low humidity, which can be traumatic for plants. Positioning houseplants in rooms that are naturally more humid, such as the bathroom or kitchen, can help them stay healthy and vibrant. Rooms where you spend a lot of time will also have higher humidity thanks to your own breath, and the plants will happily breathe along with you.
  • Air Circulation – All plants need proper air circulation to stay healthy and minimize pests, but unfortunately most homes have very still, stagnant air. Placing a houseplant in an area with gentle breezes, such as a spot where you pass nearby often to disturb the air, a room with a ceiling fan that is used frequently, or where a window is often open, will help keep the plant happier and healthier.

Positioning Houseplants for Your Benefit

Even a lush, healthy houseplant that is in the ideal place for its growth and beauty won’t give you nearly as many benefits if you rarely see or enjoy the plant. Once you’ve chosen a location for your houseplant’s best health, also consider…

  • Busy Rooms – The rooms where you spend the most time are the locations where you will enjoy your plant the most, noticing even small changes in its foliage, size, and blooms. These are also the locations where you will get the most benefits from fresher air and the other traits that make houseplants so desirable.
  • Viewpoint – You aren’t as likely to notice a houseplant if you have it tucked into a corner or otherwise out of the way, even in a busy room. Instead, use the plants to create a meaningful focal point in the room, or position even a small plant within your common field of view, such as on the windowsill of a favorite window or on the corner of your desk.
  • Activities – Choose houseplants that coordinate with the functions of the rooms they will live in. Growing herbs in the kitchen, however, will draw your attention and invite you to enjoy their fresh taste in your favorite recipes. Aloe for healing in the bathroom, bold palms in an active family room, and hardy snakeplants in the bedroom are other popular choices.
  • Attention-Grabbing Accents – Another way to ensure you are able to better notice plants is to be sure they stand out and catch your attention. Instead of using neutral, camouflaged pots, opt for bold bursts of color that add energy to the room. Choose houseplants with unusual shapes or unique colors to add their own distinction to the rooms they inhabit.
  • Interior Landscaping – Houseplants are often treated as simple decorative accents, but they can be so much more. Be aware of your plant’s habits and allow it to grow and thrive naturally, such as allowing a pothos to climb and wend its way over a bookshelf instead of limiting it with pruning. Group plants together to form interior landscapes that draw even more attention.
  • Pay Attention – You won’t derive many benefits from your houseplants if you don’t pay attention to them. Take the time to focus on the plant, noting its new growth, shed leaves, soil condition, leaf texture, and other characteristics. Not only will this allow you to care for the plant more effectively, but you’ll increase your own focus and awareness simultaneously.

Houseplants can provide us with a variety of amazing benefits, but if your plants aren’t in the best position, they will not thrive and you will not receive the full effects they can provide. By understanding the plants’ location needs and how to make those locations work for you as well, you can ensure the maximum enjoyment and refreshment from every plant in your home.

A Mindful Bouquet From Your Own Flowerbeds

It’s easy to be mindful, focused, and involved when you are planting flowerbeds and nurturing each bloom to achieve its fullest, brightest beauty. But cutting, arranging, and enjoying your flowers can also bring you peace and focus even away from your garden when you create thoughtful bouquets.

The Joy of Cutting Flowers

Flowers are meant to be enjoyed, and creating beautiful bouquets from your flowerbeds can help you enjoy your blooms in many places rather than just in your landscape or garden. You could use bouquets to bring the colors, scents, and textures of nature inside your home as decorative accents or table centerpieces, or you can take a bouquet to the office, share one with a neighbor, or give flowers as a gift. The more thoughtful your bouquet, the more joy it will bring to you and everyone who sees the blooms.

Adding Focus to Your Flower Bouquets

Many people find gardening to be a calming, centering practice, and cutting flowers from your beds and arranging them into bouquets can be equally refreshing and restorative. The key is to be very deliberate as you arrange flowers into bouquets, considering each step of the process as a way to continue connecting with your garden rather than a separate chore. From first snipping the stems to sharing the bouquet, every step of arranging a bouquet can be a way to focus and enjoy your flowers.

  • As you visit your flowerbeds and choose which flowers to cut for a bouquet, recall the work and effort it took to create these blooms. From planting seeds or seedlings to watering, weeding, pruning, fertilizing, composting, and other care, each step was necessary to bring each particular bloom to the beauty it has reached. Savor that effort and the beauty you grew.
  • Focus on each flower to cut it carefully, using smooth, firm motions with sharp pruning shears to create a clean, healthy cut. Feel the stems and their rigidity and texture, and note where foliage branches off from each stem so you can either trim it if necessary, or else incorporate that foliage into your vision of a beautiful, thoughtful bouquet.
  • Consider the colors of the flowers you choose for each bouquet in order to invoke the mood you would like. For a soothing bouquet, consider cool colors in blues and purples. Yellow and pink blooms can spread happiness, while red and orange shades help focus energy and enthusiasm. Whites and creams are peaceful shades, and green foliage is a great accent for any hue.
  • In addition to color, flowers can also be chosen for deliberate symbolism. If the bouquet is meant to be a gift, opt for the recipient’s favorite flowers or colors to add an extra layer of thoughtfulness to the arrangement. Some blooms even have more deliberate symbolism, such as flowers associated with birthdays, state flowers, and similar meanings. Daisies, for example, represent innocence and loyalty, while zinnias let someone know you’re missing them, and chrysanthemums show optimism and joy.
  • All your senses should be incorporated into a thoughtful bouquet. While colors please the eyes, don’t forget floral aromas to please the nose. Gardenias, lilacs, roses, jasmine, and lavender are all aromatic blooms that can bring freshness and beauty far past just the visual appeal of the bouquet, and give you another way to enjoy every flower in the arrangement.
  • Textures are another part of bouquets, though textures are often overlooked. Consider each bloom carefully – the shape of the petals, the overall shape and size of the bloom, and the difference in textures on foliage, petals, and floral centers. Create an inviting bouquet that encourages gentle touching to fully engage your senses.
  • Think creatively when adding extra foliage and accents into a bouquet, and don’t reject untraditional options. Adding a sprig of herbs or ripe grains to a bouquet can really make it stand out and enhance the entire bouquet. A long feather, a sprig of berries, or a twig with distinctive bark or a unique shape can all be interesting focal points in a mindful bouquet.

Finally, when you’ve arranged your bouquet, it is important to give it thoughtfully so it can be enjoyed as it was intended. If you are arranging the flowers for your own pleasure, place them in a visible spot where you will see them often and they will always bring you back to your garden. If the bouquet is to be a gift, offer it with true kindness and appreciation so the recipient can freely and fully enjoy not only the flowers, but the intention behind them. Consider giving the gift for a unique occasion, such as the anniversary of becoming friends, a 6-month birthday, or a fun holiday such as Herb Day (May 4 – perfect for a bouquet with herbs), Say Something Nice Day (June 1 – a great day to celebrate friends), or I Forgot Day (July 2 – ideal for any special occasion you’ve forgotten!).

Grown, cut, arranged, and given with great care and thoughtfulness, your flowerbeds and the flowers in them will bring wonderful joy not only to you, but to everyone you hold dear.

Bringing the Garden Indoors

Those of us that love to garden know that pursuing our passion does not have to end when the coldest days of the year arrive. As the outdoor temperatures begin to drop, it is an excellent time to begin transitioning from outdoor to indoor gardening.

Herbs
Herbs are a wonderful way to get your winter gardening fix. Begin by selecting several that you find appealing and grow them on a sunny windowsill in or close to the kitchen. Fresh herbs are useful in warm winter soups, stews and sauces and their tempting aroma and taste will get you through the coldest months. Plant an abundance to share with your friends.

Succulents
Succulent gardens are easy to assemble and care for. With so many varieties available, in a wide selection of colors, you won’t miss flowers during the winter months. Colors include shades of green, grey, blue, purple, red, orange, yellow and even black. These fleshy plants require plenty of sun and benefit from infrequent watering. Arranging your colorful selections in a container for winter enjoyment is an engaging and artistic project that can be easily shared with friends, children and elderly gardeners.

Houseplants
Pick up one or several new and interesting houseplants. Nurturing them throughout the cool season will provide you with a great sense of satisfaction and purpose. Houseplants have the amazing ability to purify the air as well as beautify your home. There are selections for both bright and darker locations around the house. Some, such and moth orchids and African violets, will provide you with flowers to brighten a cold and dreary day.

Bulbs
Bulbs such as paperwhites and Amaryllis are simple to grow and do not require pre-chilling to flower. They may be purchase in bloom or simply as bulbs waiting for you to provide the water that they need to begin growing. Paperwhites will also fill your winter home with a heady fragrance. Have extras on hand to give as host and hostess gifts during the holiday season.

Fairy Gardens and Terrariums
Creating a fairy garden and/or a terrarium is an enjoyable and engaging cold weather pastime. These whimsical wonderlands will enable you to garden on a miniature scale all winter long. It is incredible fun to plan and shop for tiny plants, garden accessories and figurines. Just like your outdoor landscape, your small-scale gardens will require planting, pruning and fertilizing, as well as other regular maintenance, to have it looking its best at all times and keeping you in good practice for the spring weather that is sure to come.