News, Culture and NPR for Central & Northern Michigan
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
91.7FM Alpena and WCML-TV Channel 6 Alpena are off the air. Click here to learn more.

Designing Your Garden!

One of the many beautiful gardens at Stone Cattage Gardens.
Stone Cottage Gardens
One of the many beautiful gardens at Stone Cattage Gardens.

JW: I'm Judy Wagley. This is “From the Ground Up!” I have some new raised garden beds this spring, and I'm in the process of deciding what flowers, herbs and vegetables to plant in them so they not only are aesthetically pleasing, but they give the plants the best chance to thrive. I asked David and Mary Moore from Stone Cottage Gardens in Gladwin, Michigan, about the basic steps for designing a garden. Thanks for joining me today.

DM: Thanks for having us.

Judy Wagley

JW: At Stone Cottage Gardens, you have many different and gorgeous gardens that have been carefully planned and designed. Those beds just didn't get there by accident. Mary, what are some ideas and some thoughts that we can have when we're designing a garden space?

MM: Well, you really want to know first what the light situation is, because if you're going to try and plant sun plants in the shade, you're going to have big trouble, and vice versa. Look at the light situation, and when that light is going to be available.

JW: So you need the right tool for the job.

MM: That's right.

JW: What's next?

DM: Trees. Trees have roots, roots spread out. Roots zap nutrients. And what we found through the years, and Mary will talk about this--- is a Maple tree. Most people love Maple trees, and they're very pretty. However, it's very hard to compete with a large Maple tree.

MM: What happened was we planted a beautiful garden thinking it was wonderful! I'd have wonderful hostas behind this maple tree, and we mounded it up so that there was lots of soil above the roots. But what I didn't realize was maple tree roots reach up to good soil, so I couldn't figure out for a couple years why my hostas were getting smaller. And then when I realized that, then we changed and did some other things with that bed.

JW: So again, right tool for the job-- and do a little homework before you decide what to put where.

MM: We have learned a lot from our mistakes.

JW: And I think others have probably benefited from your advice that you've learned from your mistakes!

MM: Yes, yes.

JW: So what about actually sort of designing a garden as far as colors and shapes and textures of your plants?

MM: I think it's important to have an interesting shape on your garden. A square garden is nice. But if you can put a little bit of movement in that shape of the garden, it really makes it more interesting.

JW: And not so much--just line them up—matchy-matchy.

DM: So we use a garden hose. I use flour to make an outline and then look around and see if that's what I want. If it isn't, I just take a hose and wash it away and start over.

JW: It's sort of the gardening version of “measure twice cut once.”

DM: Yep. Yes.

JW: So you lay the garden hose out and use a little flour to kind of indicate your design. And then go from there.

DM: Yep. Exactly.

JW: Do you have any combinations of plants or flowers that you like as far as colors, textures, things that maybe are your favorites?

MM: I really like echinacea. They're really a neat plant and they bloom for a long time.

JW: Echinacea-- sometimes called cone flowers. Do you like to pair those with any other flowers that look pretty?

MM: Yes, I have them in my daylily beds.

DM: And I like Lenten roses—Hellebores. They're perennial, they stay in the ground. They have a tap roots, so they're hard to move. But they're one of the first plants that bloom in the spring. And sometimes when it's snowing you'll see them blooming.

MM: The thing is you have to have those in the shade.

JW: I'm thinking too—you are in Gladwin, and some of our listeners may be farther north. So maybe another thing to consider too is our gardening zone.

Stone Cottage Gardens

DM: Yes, yes, yes. And that's what we found that a lot of times, the plant looks really, really pretty. But you’ve got to look at the tag real carefully because--we're in zone 4, even though it says 5. And up north, you're looking at 4, 3, and also microclimates have a lot to do with it. If you put something in front of a house on the south facing side, it'll grow. You put that on the east, west or north side of the house--more than likely it won't grow.

JW: So like we mentioned before, really do a little homework. Your light situation, your zone, whether you're plants like sun or shade.

DM: And also how big they'll grow. A lot of people forget that they plant a tree 8 to 10 feet away from the corner of their house and say, well, you know, 20 years later it's like 60 feet tall and cracking the foundation. So I think that's something that's often overlooked.

JW: Do your homework when designing a garden! And you can always go to your local garden center and ask the folks there who have a lot of knowledge,

DM: Yes, that's very important.

JW: David and Mary Moore from Stone Cottage Gardens in Gladwin, Michigan. Thanks for joining me for “From the Ground Up!”

DM/MM: Thank you for having us.


Judy Wagley is WCMU’s midday host, and is the producer of The Children’s Bookshelf from From the Ground Up! She guides listeners through their weekdays from 9am to 3pm.