perennial-gardenAny homeowner will admit that s/he would love to have great gardens and landscaping.  Admit it – you drive through your neighborhood and always have a bit of envy, and maybe a tiny bit of anger, over that one yard that puts every other one, including yours, to shame.  How many hours must they be spending – hours that no normal person has?  Easy gardening in St. Louis doesn’t seem possible, unless you don’t have anything else to do with your free time!

I don’t like being a slave to gardens from May until the first frost.  The planning, the buying, the planting, the weeding, the trimming – it is endless!  And I spent many years doing just that and then getting so busy with other things that the gardens just became a mess of dead flowers, brown stalks, and weeds.  If it was too dry, I was running out to water everything, thus encouraging all the more weed growth.  When blooms withered, I was out there pinching off the dead ones so that new buds would be encouraged.  But I never really had enough time, and all of the best intentions in May were gone by July.  Over time, however, I discovered that easy gardening in St. Louis can be achieved,  if you know how to go about it smartly.  I am passing on these great tidbits which will save you time, money, and frustration, not to mention the disapproving looks of neighbors as they walk their dogs or children by your house.

St. Louis growing seasons are hot and muggy, for the most part.  Occasionally, there are periods of drought during the summer months, and of course watering may be required during those times, but a decent sprinkler can resolve that issue.  The key to easy gardening in St. Louis is to know what and how to prepare the space, and, more important, what to buy and plant.

Space Preparation:  The standard format for garden plot preparation in St. Louis is to lay down black plastic landscape material and cover it with much or gravel.  What you will find, however, is that weeds still come through, mulch does deteriorate, and by late July and early
august, an untended garden looks bad.  Here are some other space preparation ideas:

  • Instead of plastic, put down newspaper on top of the soil before you cover it with anything.  Amazingly, newspaper seems to discourage weeds more, and it is environmentally friendly.  Yes, the newspaper will disintegrate over time, but it goes directly into the soil and provides food for the worms which keep the soil healthy by naturally fertilizing it (yes, worm poop is the best fertilizer there is)!
  • Consider buying the newer forms of long-lasting or rubber mulch.  These retain their color and look “new” for the entire season.  And the rubber mulch, which is made from recycled tires by the way, does not have to be replaced every year.
  • If you don’t like mulch, use a ground cover.  But, use one that is a perennial and that will come back every year and grow quickly.  A low-rise mulch will allow you to plant taller things in it that are attractive and eye-catching.  The more ground you can cover with hardy, fast-growing plants, the better off your gardens will look all summer.  For shady areas, I like Bear Berry, Sweet Woodruff, White Nancy, Pachysandra, and Waldsteinia; sunny and partially sunny areas love Phlox, Sedum, Coreopsis, and Emerald Carpet.  All of these ground covers will choke out weeds, will return every year, and have flowers at various points.

Your Main Attractions:  Spaced throughout your ground cover or mulch, you will want a nice variety of flowering perennials.  Why?  Because they come back every year, and you do not have to go out and buy bedding annuals in order to give your gardens some color.  For easy gardening in St. Louis, I would recommend the following:

  • Roses are always great, but you must be willing to periodically pinch off the dead ones and to trim them back.
  • Hostas are great, low maintenance plants for a shady to partially sunny area.
  • Lillies are another St. Louis favorite, but there is some maintenance and most varieties bloom during June and early July and not at any other time.  You can purchase the Stella Doras, however, that will give a nice yellow-orange flower all season.  Again, these require some maintenance – you must pinch off dead flowers stubs and pull out the dead stalks frequently.
  • Larger shrubs that take lots of sun are Rose of Sharon and Russian Sage – they flower all season.  Butterfly bushes are also great, though they can totally take over.
  • Holly is a great ornamental shrub for St. Louis, and there is the added benefit that they stay green all year!

The important point is this:  If you are a busy person, go with flowering perennials, both for ground cover and for main attractions.  You will have a nice low-maintenance garden that will have “curb appeal.”