Good morning! My ark has been constructed and although it may have stopped raining by the time you read this, the way things are going I may have already set sail. But, be advised, besides collecting all of the animals possible, the plants will be on board as well! I have run out of things to say about coping with rain. Seriously, when you read this I will have taken a modern-day ark that flies and will be in sunny California where the temperatures have been in the 80s and, I am sure, the flowers will be beautiful. I will take my camera and share them with you when I return.

As many of you are probably aware, it is reunion season and I am going to spend a few days with my oldest and dearest friend who shared that adventure called high school and puberty with me. We shall meet and greet people whom we do not recognize and I am desperately hoping there are name tags with senior pictures on them. We will be reminded of adventures (read that as mistakes) that occurred, stupid pranks that we pulled and the bittersweet joy of believing yourself invincible. We will also have conversations with people who want to remember some particular event that no longer resides in our memory banks. God bless the good old days.
Everyone grows older and as we do our levels of energy change as do our ideas of fun, hence the word “downsizing.” It doesn’t just apply to dwellings, but also to lifestyles. I have received numerous e-mails and questions about what to plant in a small, manageable garden that doesn’t require hours and hours of work or special treatment – something that will just grow and produce flowers and can be enjoyed. Many of these gardens are outside condos or in retirement communities or are simply large gardens being made smaller by new owners or changing priorities.
So let’s explore some of the most dependable and least troublesome plants that will still satisfy that need for green.
Obviously, the light available will have a great effect on which plants you choose, but let’s just say the spot gets four to six hours of light each day and the soil is or can be amended to be good garden soil. So this probably won’t work if the spot is in total shade or is constantly wet or is sand. Those are entirely individual situations.
I would add these plants in order, depending on personal preference and space.
To begin, plant daffodils in clumps of five to seven bulbs each and at least three clumps, spacing them for maximum spring viewing and enjoyment. There are so many choices now, including pinks, creams, frilly yellow and whites, whites with green and so many more that you do not have to settle for the traditional yellow trumpet. They are also not bothered by moles, skunks or deer. Plant these in the fall with the goal to do the perennials in the spring. For a wide variety of bulb choices in the fall, try Longfellow’s in Manchester for some of the prettiest.
Daylilies would be next on my list. They grow forever, can be divided but do not need to be, and come in a wide variety of colors and sizes from 1 foot to 4 feet tall and as much as 4 feet wide or wider.
When you plant the daffodils, site them so a daylily can be placed beside or in front of them. Then, by the time the daffodils have gone by, the daylily will be up enough so that the spent daffodil foliage can be tucked beneath the daylily leaves until it browns and can be discarded. But remember, when you have a small space you need to choose cultivars very carefully. A huge daylily may take too much of your limited space and provide color for only a few weeks. Many of the new daylilies have been hybridized to bloom almost continually from late June through frost and come in wonderful pinks, burgundies, lime greens and bi-color varieties. You are no longer stuck with yellow or orange. And also remember, some of them are now much smaller and perfect for limited space. Daylilies can be found at most nurseries, but for a wide variety of colors and sizes, try D.R. Struck’s or Longfellow’s in Manchester, Sunnyside Gardens in Turner or Gingerbread Farm in Wayne.
Next, I would add astilbes for their nice mounding habit and ethereal blooms. Like daylilies, astilbes have been hybridized as well and can be found from quite small to very large. In my garden, I have astilbes that are 4-feet wide and with blooms 4-feet tall. But I also have a sweet little, light pink one that is about 10 inches across and 1-foot high with blooms. You can get them everywhere in between, so it is a versatile plant that gives a fairly long lasting bloom, has no pest problems and the deer seem to avoid it. They come in shades of pink from pale to neon, reds from light to darks, many whites and creams; and can also have loose airy blooms or tight ones that look a bit like blobs of cotton candy on a stick.
Don’t forget the hostas, because they are some of the most dependable and long-lived as well. I know everyone thinks of hostas as shade plants, but almost all will do quite well in normal sun. If you go to a reputable nursery, they will be able to tell you the few that will not. There are little hostas that get no more than 8 inches tall and huge ones that are 4-feet high and wide and just about everything in between. You plant hostas for their foliage not really for their blooms which, in most cases, are not dramatic. But the variations in hosta leaves can add not only color but texture to the garden as some sport veined and leathery leaves while others have as many as four colors on each leaf.
Take note that hostas are loved by both slugs and deer. But in a small garden, that is easily solved with a couple of spring applications of Sluggo and one of many products, including pepper sprays that go directly onto the hosta leaves. If it doesn’t taste good, deer usually go look for something else. I have found a good variety of hostas at Gammon’s Nursery on Route 4 near the Auburn-Turner line and an excellent selection at Sunnyside Gardens where expert garden advice is freely given by owner Edith Ellis. There are also many hard-to-find hostas available at McLaughlin Gardens in Paris.
To round out these basic plantings, if there are a few spaces remaining, I would add one or more of the following:
• One of the new Shasta daisies that have sturdy stems. They are fun flowers that range from single to fluffy, go from 18 inches to 3-feet tall and are basically pest-free. If you deadhead them, they keep blooming for many weeks.
• Brown-eyed Susans, which range from “Toto” at 10 to 14 inches to the traditional “Goldstrum” at 24 to 30 inches. They are basically pest-free, very dependable and bring that wonderful bright yellow to the garden as we head to fall.
• One of the many bellflowers or campanula to bring some blue to the garden. There are many varieties from mounding to plants that grow in clumps somewhat like daisies. But they bring that blue to the summer garden that looks so very nice near the white daisies and pink astilbes.
• Perennial geraniums should be in every garden for their dependability, long bloom season and perseverance in the face of being ignored. Again, they are basically pest-free and deer do not like them. They come in a variety of sizes, have a nice mounding habit and come in shades of blue, lavender, pink and white. I have “Johnson Blue,” which has lived on the hill in poor soil and vicious sun for about 20 years and “Wargrave Pink,” which has much more favorable conditions and just keeps going along.
All of these plants take a minimum of care, all can be cut back in the fall before heading out to warmer climes or left until spring. An early spring addition of a good organic slow-release fertilizer and some compost for mulch will pretty much take care of tending. The mulch will keep the weeds down and the only additional work would be the application of Sluggo, which shakes out of a can and is about as easy as it gets – and some deadheading on the daisies and/or brown-eyed Susans.
So, other than spring clean-up, you can have a lovely flower garden to treat your senses, satisfy your need to grow things and that takes no more than one hour per week. Lifestyles do change, but you can still satisfy your soul with a garden.
Until next time, get outside even if you have to dodge in between the raindrops, practice your memory skills for those upcoming family and class reunions, look for the raspberries and blackberries because their time with us is so fleeting – and keep those mud boots handy.
Happy gardening!
Jody Goodwin has been gardening for more than 25 years. She lives in Turner with her husband, Ike, her two dogs and two cats. She can be reached by writing to her in care of the Sun Journal, 104 Park St., Lewiston, Maine, 04243-4400 or by e-mail at [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.