Every neighborhood has it: the garden full of gorgeous summer plantings that catches the eye of everyone passing by. The bold colors and intoxicating aromas make it the envy of the neighborhood, and leave you wondering just how expensive and time-consuming it must be to maintain. Here’s the thing. A spectacular summer garden doesn’t require a green thumb. You just have to know what to plant.
As Sales and Creative Director of Parterre Garden Services, a garden design firm based in Cambridge, Vanessa Tropeano knows a thing or two about the secrets to a successful summer garden. Her top tip? It’s never too late to start planting. Here are her three picks for simple, stunning plantings for beginners that attract a lot of attention without requiring much from you.
The key word to remember here is paniculata. Though some hydrangeas thrive in the shade, hydrangea paniculata are summer blooming shrubs that love to soak up the sun. They produce huge clusters of Instagram-worthy white flowers that last for weeks before fading into lovely shades of pink or red. To grow them, apply compost to an area of your yard with rich, dense soil that easily drains because they will need a lot of water. A deep watering of roughly one inch a week should do the trick.
“It’s super low maintenance and has tons of flowers that you can turn into bouquets for your house,” says Tropeano. “They come in all shapes and sizes, so you can fit them all throughout the garden. Plus they’re very hard to kill so you get a lot of bang for your buck.”
They’re a favorite of gardeners for a reason. Well, for many reasons. Geraniums burst with flowers of the brightest colors to create lush foliage wherever you grow them. They’re also incredibly hardy, disease and pest-resistant, so you rarely have to check on them even during the hot summer months.
“Geraniums come in all sorts of colors and they flower all season long,” says Tropeano. “They’re also fun to collect. I have lots of different varieties of geraniums in my garden.”
Whether you’re growing them in a flower bed, in a hanging basket, or even indoors, geranium upkeep is a breeze. Make sure you plant them in well-draining potting soil that gets about six to eight hours of sunlight a day. Do a deep watering weekly—or daily for potted geraniums in hot weather—and fertilize with water soluble fertilizer every four to six weeks to replace nutrients.
Though a bit on the smaller side, these long-blooming flowers make a big and striking visual impact on any garden with thick clusters of pink, red, and white blooms. Pests and droughts do little to diminish their dazzling nature, particularly bronze-colored wax begonias like the “Victory” and “Cocktail” varieties. Similar to hydrangeas and geraniums, well-drained soil is best for planting but avoid soggy soil that could rot their roots. Water with a fine mist for 15 minutes in the afternoon along with frequent bottom watering, though Tropeano urges beginners to be wary of overwatering.
“Too much water can kill a plant,” says Tropeano. “It’s okay to see them wilt a little. Just set your hose to trickle and give them a long slow drink when you do.”
So, ready to strap on a garden apron and get started planting? With so many easy and elegant hydrangea, geranium, and begonia varieties to choose from, the hardest task will be choosing which ones to showcase in your yard, soon to be the new envy of the neighborhood.
“Gardening is a lot of trial and error,” says Tropeano, “but don’t be afraid to have fun!”
Looking for more tips and tricks on summer gardening? Contact one of the experts at Parterre Garden Services and learn more about how to transform your garden at parterregarden.com.
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