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Sage advice for a ‘green’ gardener

By Debra Dobbins

Every spring I joyfully anticipate visiting a local nursey to purchase flowers. Please note a key word: anticipate.

Once I arrive, reality sets in. Although I am delighted to walk among row after row of tables filled with a profusion of greenery and glorious blooms, I'm usually overwhelmed at the prospect of choosing among them all.

So many choices, so little time. So many factors, so little time. So little money, so little time.

It is important, after all, to consider whether a plant is an annual or perennial; its height; the type of soil it needs; the amount of sunlight and/or shade it needs; the area in which it will be planted; and, of course, how much it costs.

In essence, I have to make purchases carefully, because I always want a glorious garden that does not leave me dirt-poor.

Friends, neighbors and colleagues in the past have been generous with their suggestions. “Grow yarrow,” one co-worker advised. “You can't go wrong.” She was right. Yarrow seems impervious to my lackadaiscal care.

Even with the sage advice of others, I still lack confidence in selecting plants. Better days, however, lie ahead — thanks to the discovery of “Five-Plant Gardens” by Nancy J. Ondra. Its subtitle is particularly enticing: “52 Ways to Grow a Perennial Garden with Just Five Plants.” Just five? Salvation!

Ondra's book is a testament to effective organization; its colorful graphics and large photos of plants entice the reader into browsing. It is then the reader notices just how easy the book is to navigate. It has two main sections:

Five-plant gardens for full sun to partial shade, and
Five-plant gardens for partial to full shade

Within each of those sections, Ondra explains how to make the most of the area of various garden plots (squares, rectangles, half-circles and triangles, for example). Also within those sections are solutions for seemingly every gardening challenge.

Got plant-nibbling deer? She has a fix. Want birds, hummingbirds and/or butterflies? She explains how to attract them. Have a favorite, must-have color scheme? Check out “Think Pink” or “Vision in Blue” or “Stunning in Silver,” among others. Want flowers to enjoy in each season of the year? You'll find them, as well.

Ondra also includes the USDA Hardiness Zone Map and a detailed index.

I've happily immersed myself in this treasure trove of a book. Armed with newfound knowledge and a definite game plan for my planting beds, I'll soon return to my favorite nursery — ready to wisely invest in some perennials that will give me pleasure for years to come.

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