Cover image for The complete idiot's guide to flower gardening.
The complete idiot's guide to flower gardening.
Grey, Mara.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Alpha ; Hemel Hempstead : Prentice Hall, 1999.
Physical Description:
356 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Subject Term:
Added Title:
Flower gardening.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
SB405 .G83 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
SB405 .G83 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Covering all the basics of flower gardening, this guide includes information on assessing your soil and site, choosing the right flowers for your environment, scheduling and budgeting, designing with colour, easy maintenance and problem solving.

Author Notes

Mara Gray has more than 20 years of experience in horticulture, including jobs as a certified nursery professional, Master Gardener, caretaker at a retreat center, and landscape gardener. She is the author of The Lazy Gardener and currently makes her living as garden consultant, author, and professional Celtic harper.

Table of Contents

Part 1 Splashing Color on Your Gardenp. 1
1 Creative Dreamingp. 3
Why Flowers?p. 3
Flowers Bring a Garden to Life with Color and Texturep. 4
Flowers Are Relaxing, Even Healingp. 4
Flowers with Fragrance Expand Our Sensual Enjoymentp. 6
Flowers Attract Wildlifep. 6
Shopping for Ideasp. 7
Picture Booksp. 7
Magazinesp. 8
Your Own Neighborhoodp. 8
Nursery Shoppingp. 8
Use Pen and Paper to Capture Your Dreamsp. 9
Start a Garden Notebookp. 9
Gather Your Dreams in Detailp. 10
Now Choose the Bestp. 10
What Would You Like to See?p. 11
What Else Is Important?p. 11
How Do You See Yourself in the Garden?p. 11
2 Designing with Flowersp. 13
Frames Are Importantp. 14
What Do You Have to Work with?p. 14
What Can You Do Now?p. 14
Make Strong Linesp. 15
Backgroundsp. 15
Open Spacep. 15
Easy Paths to Color Harmonyp. 16
You Don't Even Have to Be Originalp. 16
Or Create Your Ownp. 17
Bold or Dainty?p. 17
Don't Forget Leavesp. 18
Color?p. 18
Ferns, Grasses, and Other Texturesp. 19
Putting Everything Togetherp. 19
3 Designing in the Fourth Dimension: Timep. 21
Seasonal Moodsp. 22
Small Spaces, Short Timesp. 22
Give Each Season a Homep. 22
Each Season Has a Moodp. 23
Focal Points Are Accents in Time as Well as Spacep. 23
Fussing Over Details Can Be Funp. 25
Bloom Times Can Be Trickyp. 25
Fill Those Gapsp. 26
Infants to Patriarchsp. 26
Thinking Ahead a Yearp. 27
Take an Assessmentp. 27
Build on Your Successesp. 28
4 Here and Now: What You Have to Offerp. 29
Light Is Important for Food Productionp. 30
Different Plants, Different Needsp. 30
Your Jobp. 30
Soil Provides a Firm Foundationp. 31
pH Demystifiedp. 32
Your Jobp. 33
Water--a Delicate Balancep. 33
Your Jobp. 33
Air Is More Important than You Thinkp. 34
Temperaturep. 34
Humidityp. 35
Windp. 35
5 Get Ready, Get Setp. 37
A Time Budgetp. 37
A Money Budgetp. 38
Small Is Betterp. 39
Prioritize before You Plantp. 40
Preparing the Bedp. 40
Get Rid of Perennial Weeds Firstp. 40
To Dig or Not to Dig?p. 41
Add Organic Matterp. 41
Other Improvementsp. 42
Just before Plantingp. 42
6 Buying without Busting Your Budgetp. 45
A Small Investment Yields Big Rewardsp. 45
Spend the Time to Design Wellp. 46
Start with Just Threep. 47
How to Get Plants for Freep. 47
Hundreds of Plants for a Few Dollarsp. 48
What Do They Need?p. 48
Drawbacksp. 48
Where to Use Them Bestp. 48
How to Shop Without Feeling Overwhelmedp. 49
The Definite-List Tripp. 49
The Exploratory Tripp. 49
The One-Bed Tripp. 50
If You Can't Find the Plant You Wantp. 51
Get the Healthiest Plants You Can Findp. 51
Does It Have Yellow Leaves?p. 52
Are the Roots and Top in Proportion?p. 52
7 Getting off to a Good Startp. 53
Care at Homep. 53
Deciding on the Best Placep. 54
How Far Apart?p. 54
Sudden Inspirationsp. 55
Roots Are the Key to Plant Fitnessp. 55
Naked Roots Are Vulnerablep. 55
Uncover Carefullyp. 55
Spread out the Rootsp. 57
Don't Plant Too High or Too Lowp. 57
A Few Last Choresp. 58
8 Minimizing Aftercarep. 59
If You Want Fewer Weeds, Mulchp. 59
Water and Air Need to Get to the Rootsp. 60
Look for Long Lifep. 60
Is It Easy to Weed?p. 60
Buy Cheap and Use Morep. 61
Strategic Wateringp. 61
Deep Watering for Deep Rootsp. 62
Use Fertilizers with Carep. 63
What Is a Fertilizer?p. 63
What Do the Numbers on the Label Mean?p. 63
Liquid or Granular Fertilizer?p. 64
Is It Possible to Use Too Much Fertilizer?p. 64
Pinching and Stakingp. 65
Pinchingp. 65
Stakingp. 66
Deadheading and Cutting Backp. 66
Pruning Tipsp. 67
9 Help! Something's Wrong!p. 69
Don't Panicp. 69
Take a Closer Lookp. 70
Keep Diseases from Spreadingp. 70
What If It's Dying?p. 70
Environmental Problems Are Most Commonp. 71
It May Not Be Your Faultp. 72
Be Willing to Try Again, and Againp. 72
Should You Try to Save It or Not?p. 72
Can You Put up with Imperfection?p. 73
When Should You Put up a Fight?p. 73
Can You Find a Substitute?p. 73
Guidelines for Doctoringp. 74
Chemical or Organic?p. 75
Applying Chemicals Properlyp. 76
Part 2 The Stars of the Showp. 77
10 One-act Wonders: Annuals and Biennialsp. 79
Annuals and Biennials are Short-livedp. 79
What Are the Advantages?p. 80
What Are the Disadvantages?p. 80
Pointers for Plantingp. 80
Introducing the Flowers Themselvesp. 81
A Bouquet of Hardy Annualsp. 81
A Bouquet of Half-hardy Annualsp. 86
A Bouquet of Tender Annualsp. 88
A Bouquet of Biennialsp. 90
11 Flowery Carpets: Ground Coversp. 93
What Do You Mean, Ground Cover?p. 93
Using Ground Covers Creativelyp. 94
Planting Tipsp. 95
A Bouquet of Annual Ground Coversp. 96
A Bouquet of Perennial Ground Coversp. 97
A Bouquet of Shrubby Ground Coversp. 103
12 Sudden Entrances: Bulbsp. 107
What Are These Terms?p. 107
True Bulbsp. 108
Cormsp. 108
Tubersp. 108
Rhizomesp. 108
Tuberous Rootsp. 109
Plant for Long Lifep. 109
Add Nutrientsp. 109
Putting Them in the Groundp. 110
Moisture Is Importantp. 110
While They're Growingp. 110
A Bouquet of Hardy Bulbsp. 110
A Bouquet of Half-hardy Bulbsp. 118
13 Encore Performers: Perennialsp. 123
Perennials are Long-livedp. 123
Planting Perennialsp. 124
How Deeply Should You Mix Your Amendments?p. 124
Not All Plants Need This Carep. 125
Plan for Permanencep. 125
Create a Strong Skeletonp. 125
Foliage Is Just as Important as Flowersp. 125
Fill in Long-term Bloomp. 125
Now, a Roll-call of Main Charactersp. 126
A Bouquet of Hardy Perennialsp. 126
A Bouquet of Half-hardy Perennialsp. 139
A Bouquet of Tender Perennialsp. 143
14 Social Climbers: Vinesp. 147
What Are Vines?p. 147
Consider the Advantages of Vinesp. 148
Choosing Vinesp. 148
Different Ways of Climbingp. 148
Caring for Vinesp. 149
A Bouquet of Annual Vinesp. 150
A Bouquet of Hardy Vinesp. 151
A Bouquet of Half-hardy Vinesp. 154
A Bouquet of Tender Vinesp. 158
15 Not Just Scenery: Trees and Shrubsp. 163
Tree or Shrub?p. 164
How Can You Use Them?p. 164
How to Get Them off to a Good Startp. 165
A Bouquet of Flowering Shrubsp. 166
A Bouquet of Flowering Treesp. 173
Part 3 Matching Place and Plantp. 179
16 Enough of Everythingp. 181
What Does This Garden Look Like?p. 181
Climate Is Your Limiting Factorp. 182
Can Anything Go Wrong?p. 182
Annuals and Tender Perennials Grown as Annualsp. 183
Bulbsp. 185
Perennials for Repeat Performancesp. 188
Vines for Vertical Colorp. 193
Shrubsp. 195
17 Sun's Abundant, Rain's Notp. 199
What Does This Garden Look Like?p. 200
What Is Drought Tolerance?p. 200
Wait to Withdraw the Waterp. 200
Soil Preparation Is Importantp. 201
Drainage Is Importantp. 201
Too Much Sun?p. 201
Annuals and Tender Perennials Grown as Annualsp. 201
Bulbsp. 205
Perennialsp. 207
Easy Vinesp. 214
Trees and Shrubsp. 215
18 Less Sun, Enough Waterp. 221
What Does This Garden Look Like?p. 222
Why Is Shade a Problem?p. 222
What Are Some of the Advantages of Dark Corners?p. 222
What If I Don't Have Enough Shade?p. 223
What's the Soil Like?p. 223
Annuals, Biennials, and Tender Perennials Usually Grown as Annualsp. 224
Bulbs and Tubersp. 226
Perennialsp. 229
Vinesp. 235
Trees and Shrubsp. 236
19 Dry Shadowsp. 241
What Does This Garden Look Like?p. 242
What if There is Too Much Shade?p. 242
Make the Most of the Water You Havep. 242
Baby Them for a Few Yearsp. 243
Annuals and Biennialsp. 243
Bulbs and Tubersp. 244
Perennialsp. 246
Vinesp. 253
Trees and Shrubsp. 254
20 Wet and Wonderfulp. 257
What Does This Garden Look Like?p. 258
Take Stockp. 258
Making Your Ownp. 258
Annuals, Biennials, and Tender Perennials Grown as Annualsp. 259
Bulbsp. 261
Perennialsp. 262
Vinesp. 269
Trees and Shrubsp. 269
21 Barrels, Tubs, and Potsp. 273
Your Container Sets the Moodp. 274
The Basics of Potsp. 274
Materials and Other Considerationsp. 275
Designing with Potsp. 276
Soil Considerationsp. 277
Potted Plants Need Extra Carep. 278
Water Regularlyp. 278
Fertilize Lightly and Oftenp. 278
Choosing Plantsp. 279
Winter Hardinessp. 279
Containment Can be an Advantagep. 279
Ground Covers and Perennialsp. 279
Vinesp. 280
Annuals, Perennials, and Bulbsp. 280
Shrubsp. 282
Part 4 Expanding Your Enjoymentp. 287
22 For the Birds (and Butterflies)p. 289
How to Invite Hummingbirdsp. 290
How to Invite Butterfliesp. 291
Give Them Flowers, Sun, and Shelterp. 291
Don't Forget to Feed the Caterpillarsp. 292
Swear off Pesticide Usep. 293
Flowers for Hummingbirdsp. 293
Annuals and Perennialsp. 293
Trees and Shrubsp. 294
Vinesp. 294
Flowers for Butterfliesp. 294
Annuals and Perennialsp. 294
Vinesp. 295
Trees and Shrubsp. 295
Plants to Host Caterpillarsp. 295
Grasses and Sedgesp. 295
23 Bringing the Garden Indoorsp. 297
Blossoms and Branches for Fresh Arrangementsp. 298
The Basics of Harvesting Flowersp. 298
Conditioning Your Bloomsp. 298
Arranging the Flowersp. 299
Good Flowers for Cuttingp. 299
Annualsp. 300
Perennials and Bulbsp. 300
Dried Flowers for Lasting Bouquetsp. 302
Everlastingsp. 302
Forcing Spring Bulbs and Branchesp. 303
Branchesp. 303
Bulbs for Indoor Bloomp. 304
Edible Flowersp. 304
Herbsp. 304
Vegetablesp. 305
Annualsp. 305
Perennialsp. 305
Bringing Plants Indoorsp. 306
24 Easy Multiplicationp. 307
What Is Propagation?p. 307
Seeds Can Be Easyp. 308
The 1st Essential Proper Soilp. 308
The 2nd Essential Warmthp. 309
The 3rd Essential Moisturep. 309
Saving Your Own Seedp. 310
What Is Best Grown from Seed?p. 310
Dividing Is Easy Toop. 311
Cuttings: as Many Plants as You Wantp. 312
What Part of the Plant Do You Use?p. 313
Start with an Easy Plantp. 313
Do You Need a Rooting Hormone?p. 313
Place Cuttings in a Soil Mixp. 313
Humidity Is Importantp. 314
Now, Waitp. 314
Layering Woody Plantsp. 314
25 Continuing the Questp. 317
Finding the Plants You Needp. 318
Changing Your Mindp. 318
Fill in with Annualsp. 318
Obtaining Your First Choicep. 318
You Can Get Almost Anything By Mailp. 319
Books, Books, Books!p. 320
Online Informationp. 320
Going Farther with Roses, Daylilies, Dahlias orp. 321
Resourcesp. 321
Appendicesp. 325
A Terms and Definitionsp. 325
B Colors of Flowersp. 329
Bright Blue Flowersp. 329
Lavender-blue to Light Purple Flowersp. 330
Purple Flowersp. 331
Cool Pink to Rose-red Flowersp. 332
Warm Pink to Coral Flowersp. 333
Warm Red Flowersp. 334
Gold to Orange Flowersp. 334
Light Yellow Flowersp. 336
White Flowersp. 336
Flowers Available in Many Colorsp. 337
C Your Flower Notebookp. 339
D USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Mapp. 341
Indexp. 343