Flowers and landscaping highlight Flower & Garden Show

March 09, 2011|By TIFFANY ARNOLD |
  • This display of plants and hardscaping at Ott's Horticulture Center in Chewsville shows one way to design a focal point for a garden or backyard.
By Yvette May/ Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Enough with the snow, already. We’re ready to find fun in our own backyards.

Spring is the time for outdoor entertaining. So for tips on fuss-free ways to design a party-perfect yard, we went to the source: Participants in the upcoming Flower & Garden Show at Hagerstown Community College on Saturday, March 12, and Sunday, March 13.
Each year, vendors tout the latest and greatest in gardening during the yearly fundraiser for the community college’s alumni association. The flower and garden show’s timing is perfect for people planning to pretty up their yards.

“You really need to start thinking about it now,” said Jason Swope, Master Gardener and owner and founder of Landscape Management Solutions in Williamsport.

“Some things are hard to do at the last minute,” said Swope, who will lead a seminar Saturday about modern gardening trends.

We tapped Swope and another Flower & Garden Show presenter, landscaper Ben Buchman of Maryland Regional Landscaping, for tips on getting our yards party ready for spring.

We’ve also rounded up suggestions from Dick Ott, of Ott’s Horticultural Center in Chewsville. Ott has been to every Flower & Garden Show since its inception.



So many plants, so little time: How to pick what’s right for your garden

Ott, Buchman and Swope agreed that instinct attracts us to plants we think are pretty, but failing to think past “pretty” can pose problems. Narrow down what type of plants or materials you plan to use by considering how they will function in your yard.

Suppose bees like those “pretty” flowers perched by your swimming pool? Or you’ve got a “pretty” tree that produces toxic berries and curious kids are running around your yard?  

Here are a few other things to consider:

Backyard buzz kill: stinky mulch

Good mulch shouldn’t stink, but sometimes, a fresh bed of mulch can carry a scent — “vinegar” was the word Ott used to describe the smell.

Not exactly a mood-setting scent.

Ott said fragrant mulch is what you get if manufacturers don’t properly cure the wood during the mulch-making process.

Should you end up with a batch of smelly mulch, Buchman suggested putting it down several days before your gathering. The scent goes away over time and the color of the mulch won’t fade.

Flower power

Right now it’s a little too early to put down flowers, but there are some varieties you use to whet your appetite until spring. Pansies and violas, Buchman said, are hardy enough to withstand last-minute spurts of snow and cold.

Seasonal flowers on Buchman’s short list of favorites include shade-loving Encore azaleas, which like this region’s soil. He’s also a fan of Knock Out roses — particularly Sunny Knock Outs and Rainbow Knock Outs — because they keep a continuous bloom from May through Thanksgiving and are less prone to disease and other issues than other rose varieties.

Light-colored flowers pop in the moonlight — something to consider for nighttime outdoor gatherings, Swope said.

Think small

Dwarf varieties can be less imposing and less needy additions to a landscape, said Buchman. He’s a fan of the dwarf winterberry and the lemon drop cypress.

Swope said potted plants and containers are also a way to incorporate smaller additions into a landscape. For example, potted tropical plants such as hibiscus, oleander and some palms can overwinter indoors and be brought out to the patio over the summer, Swope said.

Have a design strategy

Start with a focal point or a place you’d like to draw the eye and then work from there. The focal point could be a tree, brush, hardscaping such as a statue or patio. Picking a starting point, Buchman said, helps focus your design concept and offer guidance on which types of plants to get. Variables include whether the space you’ve picked is sunny or shady, dry or wet, or prone to lots of wind; and whether the plants you have in mind will accommodate those conditions.

Swope said you can also create visual interest through repetition and mass plantings, instead of incorporating multiple plants. Low-voltage lighting can highlight pathways, trees and conversational areas, “make people curious about where the space leads,” Swope said.

Ott likes to use curved beds to add visual interest.

“When you think of a house, everything is a straight line,” Ott said.

Get to know the “natives”

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