|A great garden starts with a great plan
(July 2007 –Updated April 2009) Most of us aren’t Master Gardeners with an innate notion of what plants will yield an all season display while tolerating a little neglect when summer settles in and the gardeners have gone off to the beach.
We’ve all had our share of garden disasters:
Those delightful little pansies and impatiens get hidden and smothered when a larger plant shoots up to a height of three or four feet and spreads out, blocking the light.
The lilies carefully placed in front of Mary’s shrine completely cover it, so Our Lady is hidden.
Everything blooms at once and then goes to seed leaving behind a mess of dead, dry foliage and not much else.
The weeds take over and when you finally get around to tackling them, the surrounding plants come up with them.
Not to worry. Here is a guide to help you plan ahead. We’re writing this in the end of July, but the garden season is far from over.
Let’s get to work!
Ora et Labora!
On This Page
Sequence Planning – Learn how to plant your garden to ensure continuous blooms from the early spring when the snow is on the ground straight through autumn to the first frost.
Bulbs – Learn the basics for planting clusters of bulbs to ensure blooms that last all year long
Earliest Spring – The Excitement Factor. Snowdrops, Snow Glories, Early Iris, Crocus peek through as the snow begins to melt
Early Spring – Cheerful daffodils, narcissus, crocus, Grecian Windflowers, fragrant hyacinth
Mid-Season Spring – A profusion of tulips and iris
Perennial Gardens – Plant a Garden that will last for decades for just pennies a year
Step by Step Endless Bloom Garden
The Perennial Shade Garden
Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden
Hot Spot Garden
3 Season Cutting Garden
Garden Health without Pesticides
|Planning for Garden Health
Killing bugs and weeds and encouraging super-sized blossoms and yields are always concerns for gardeners. The “easy” solution is to use chemicals – pesticides, herbicides and products like Miracle Gro. While these certainly do the job quite well, when we are addressing the needs of a Catholic garden, whether at home or in a parish setting, it’s not quite so simple. There are issues of morality involved even in the simple act of gardening. We’ve all read the news alerts about links to cancer and marine life as the result of chemical use.
While on vacation in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI stated that care for the environment can be a valid way of instructing youth on issues of Christian morality. You should listen to you (Holy) Father. A garden can be beautiful while using organic methods. It just requires a little education and effort.
One of our favorite sources for natural garden assistance is Gardens Alive. Click on the bug to visit them.
Whatever your gardening problem may be, they will have a solution that is environmentally friendly. A wealth of good information on their site, too.
Birds and Bats are always important in the garden. After you turn over the soil, step away for a while so the birds can eat all the unpleasant critters. Here’s a birdhouse we like a lot
Church Bird House
|Making a Plan Sequence Planting
We’ll start with bulbs and tubers first, since they are the “hidden” elements of your garden that will yield the first peek of color through winter’s last bits of snow straight through the end of autumn.
Start with a piece of graph paper before you purchase bulbs to ensure you get the proper amount for a full, lush bed. Or you can use one of the plans we’ve provided and intersperse your bulbs accordingly. Ideally, you’ll place markers by your bulb plantings so you’ll know what’s there and when it’s expected to appear.
Hint: Get parishioners to donate the plantings for a particular garden by placing their name on an attractive marker like this one. Click image for details.
If you forget to use markers, when the foliage of spring blooms dies back by early summer, you’ll have an idea of where to place the annuals and perennials that will fill in your border later on. But use markers. You’ll be glad you did. Even popsicle sticks will do.
As you develop your plan, keep in mind that bulbs bloom at different times. Some spring bulbs have overlapping bloom periods, but they still maintain the order in which they bloom. Spring bulbs will bloom from early February to mid June. Summer bulbs will bloom from early summer to fall.
Following is a general idea of various flower’s bloom sequence: These bloom cycles are for general reference. The following sequence depends a great deal on the weather in your area as well as the variety of bulbs you plant.
Catholic Home and Garden recommends the bulbs shown
below which come with a full guarantee You’re probably reading this in spring or summer – order now for fall shipment before you forget. And you’ll save 50% too.
|Easy Garden Plans Using Perennials
As we mentioned before, annuals are the least expensive to buy in flats of multiple plants, but they last only a year. An investment in a perennial garden, supplemented with bulbs and a few annuals for added color and fragrance will last a lifetime and, in the long run, it will be much less costly.
You can plan your own garden, but often the results are hit or miss. Here are a few plans that can be adapted to just about any setting.
The garden plans listed below are from
Click below for Buy One Get One Free deal
Endless Bloom Perennial Garden
Non-stop flowers from spring through fall. April brings pretty Primroses, followed all summer by a host of colorful favorites, and ending with cushion mums at frost. A professionally designed garden like this would cost hundreds of dollars at a retail store. This 25′ x 8′ garden includes 54 flowers that take just a few hours to plant and return bigger every year. Prefers sun or partial shade. TIP: Plant in fall so plants are well established for blooms in spring and summer. We’d also add some irises in the background for shape and early color.
Click on the chart to enlarge. The list below are the plants needed for this garden.
A. 6 Snow in Summer
B. 3 Hardy Primrose
C. 3 Cushion Mums
D. 3 Crazy Shasta Daisy
E. 3 Crimson Coral Bells
F. 3 Siberian Iris
G. 3 Purple Coneflower
H. 3 Fiesta Daisy
I. 3 Shasta Daisy
J. 3 Painted Daisy
K. 3 Barlow Columbine Mix
L. 3 Dwarf Daylilies
M. 3 Mixed Lupines
N. 3 Old-Fashioned Hollyhocks
O. 3 Montana Skies Delphinium
P. 3 Mixed Foxglove
Q. 3 Bee Balm Mix
Click to Buy or View
|Other Resources for Planning
Direct Gardening is a a mail order firm that has a wonderful function on its home page – an automated garden planner. Just enter your zip code, the height, colors and season, and voila! An instant array of plants that are right for you. Don’t miss out on their 1 Cent Sale.
FREE STUFF We found this coupon code, too. Enter #G5666 for 3 free Peacock Orchid Bulbs with any purchase. You might not want them, but they would make a nice gift for indoor gardeners or pair with a nice planter as a church raffle prize.
Shop Around – It’s Garden Sale Time
Before you know it, it will be time to start planting bulbs in your Catholic garden. There are lots of sales and deals available at this time of year. Shop around for the best deals. We’ll list coupon codes and links to sales as we find them.
Here are a few:
Blooming Bulbs Offers a wide variety of products all with a money back guarantee. Sign up for their newsletter and get another 10% off. Lilies are now up to 45% off.
One of their products that we like very much is the butterfly and hummingbird mix. If you have a larger area that doesn’t need to be too tidy – or an area of a Church field – this is a beautiful solution. A mix of annual and perennial seeds – that are actually self sowing for the next year if you leave them alone – that will add color and natural beauty to any garden. Sow in fall for an early start next year.
Windowbox is another company that we like very much – particularly since they support a whole host of community based programs like the American Community Gardening Association (we were an award winner a few years ago) and the Horticultural Therapy Association (we are a member). Click on Do Some Good tab on their site.
You’ll also find links to helping kids learn about gardening and the black thumb society. A warm-hearted site with a sense of humor. Don’t miss them.
Arbico is another excellent organic gardening site. You’ll find lots of solutions to your gardening problems and questions. I like their special feature Ask Dr Bug Lady – that’s her on the left. Submit a question or call and you’ll get help fast. Click on the link below to save 10%
Very Early Spring
The Excitement Factor
When the snow is still on the ground and just beginning to fade, these early blooming plants are the first to peek through. While the blossoms are not necessarily the most spectacular you’ll see in the garden throughout the year, they serve the purpose of lightening weary winter hearts and turning minds to God’s goodness. And, they get gardening volunteers excited. Plant these in the fall. A cluster of these around the base of a statue of Mary or at the foot of a wayside Crucifix shrine bring hope.
Perennial Shade Garden
Our parish has a meditation garden which is primarily in the shade. A wonderful respite from the hot summer seaside sun, but tough for growing flowering plants. This 18′ x 6′ garden can be planted even by beginners and takes less than two hours once you’ve prepared your soil. It will bloom all summer long. Add some bulbs for springtime color.
A. 3 Fern Leaf Bleeding Heart
B. 3 Lady Fern
C. 10 Hardy Perennial Lilies
D. 3 Widow’s Tears
E. 6 Lily of the Valley
We especially like this garden as it includes several classics from the Mary Garden and if you supply plant identification plaques, it will serve as an aid in meditating upon Our Lady’s Sorrows – a help to those who may be mourning.
Click to Buy or View
Many homes and parishes also display flags of various sorts in the garden. Our former home parish, like many, has an American flag and, unfortunately, below it was an odd rainbow flag
We found a resource that has the sort of flag you, as a Catholic, might really want to fly.
In an era when it seems that just about everyone wants to remove God from the equation, we like this one:
God Bless America Flag
And of course, if you really want to state where your loyalties reside, there’s the Papal flag – every parish should have one.
Roman Catholic Flag
St. George’s Cross
This flag was originally used in England and Genoa, but was adopted by the Crusaders in the 11th to 13th centuries and worn on the uniforms of the Knights Templar
FREE SHIPPING on all website orders!
|Early Spring – As winter finally begins to fade and we begin to draw closer to Easter, these standards make their way fragrantly into the garden. Still among the shorter growing bulbs, they provide the next stage of color.
Butterfly Hummingbird Garden
Place a statue of Our Lord with His arms outstretched, Our Lady or your favorite saint in the center of this colorful perennial garden design and watch the graceful dance of butterflies and hummingbirds. Blooms begin in late spring and continue A giant-flowering, Orange Trumpet Vine is one of their all-time favorites. From late spring to frost, the pink spires of Charming Pink Butterfly Bush tempt these garden visitors with their sweet nectar. Other butterfly- and hummingbird-friendly perennials complement this vine and shrub combination to create a haven of beauty in your yard or parish garden. Contains 31 plants and is only $34.99. Click to Buy or View
A. 1 Charming Pink Butterfly Bush
B. 1 Orange Trumpet Vine
C. 10 Hardy Perennial Lilies
D. 3 Ever-blooming Purple Coneflower
E. 10 Blazing Star Liatris
F. 3 Blue Columbine
G. 3 Dwarf Daylilies
Composting is a basic starting point, and it doesn’t have to be messy or back breaking work. Visit the link below to learn more. Mantis also makes the best rototillers around. They last forever. And the shipping is free.
Mantis® – We Make Gardening Easier ®
Take advantage of our best offer ever.
Free shipping and a Free Border Edger Attachment.
With just this compost bin and your own yard waste, you can produce a steady supply of rich, fertilizer humus for your garden. The bin’s design speeds the composting process, yet it is attractive enough that you won’t have to hide it from the neighbors.
Quick-Start Compost Activator
Jump Start your composting with Gardens Alive Compost activator. You’ll have rich hummus in no time at all. Click link above.
Make Your Own Compost Bin at Home
If you’re not too fussy about how things look, it’s easy to make a compost bin at home. I was inspired by an article on how to grow 100 lbs of potatoes in 4 sq. feet and with a little gentle persuasion, my husband, Rod, built a side by side compost bin – potato farm from pallets we got for free! More on that on the food security page.
|Mid-Season Spring. We’re now entering the period of spring that is full of riotous colors from tulips, daffodils and narcissus. All are wonderful for cutting – except for the narcissus which are best left outdoors. Really. Trust us. They stink awfully. One important tip about these bulbs. Don’t skimp. They look best planted in generous clusters.
Breck’s offers a wonderful fundraising program that will fit any parish need.
There’s no need to purchase anything in advance. No worries about unsold items.
Just order their booklets and place your volunteers outside to take orders. Send them in and distribute when the bulbs arrive. Encourage your members to make purchases for the parish, too!
Hot Spot Garden
Plants love sun. People love fun in the sun. At the height of summer, we guarantee your gardeners will disappear. But your garden will still be there needing care. This garden is the perfect solution for gardens in full sun that usually dry out. Lots of height, lots of color, and little need for care. The planting of this 8 1/2′ x 4′ garden takes only an hour and will last for decades. It contains 18 plants that will spread and multiply over time. At $39.99 it’s less costly than flats of annuals and you’ll be saving a ton on your water bill.
Click to Buy or View
Tip: Plant in the fall or early spring so plants will be well established and ready to bloom.
A. 3 Hardy Perennial Hibiscus
B. 3 Russian Sage
C. 3 Black Eyed Susan
D. 3 Orange Glory Flower
E. 3 Maiden Pinks
F. 3 Stella d’Oro Daylilies
Buy One Get One Free at Michigan Bulb
3 Season Cutting Garden
Now you can enjoy your own European-style cutting garden, professionally designed so you’ll have bulbs and perennials in bloom from spring through fall. This garden features a wide variety of both plants and bulbs – 50 in all – including delphinium, lilies, asters, gladiolus, phlox and more. Best of all, this garden will thrive in sun or partial shade
Mixed Delphiniums (A – 3)
Hardy Perennial Lilies (B – 10)
Hardy Mixed Carnations (C – 3)
Mixed Liatris (D – 6)
Cushion Mums (E – 3)
Hardy Tall Phlox (F – 3)
Super Aster (G – 3)
Bellflowers (H – 3)
Canterbury Bells (I – 3)
Dwarf Gladiolus (J – 10)
Fiesta Daisy (K – 3)
Click to Buy or View
Buy One Get One Free at Michigan Bulb
They may seem frivolous, but they’re not and in the long run they will save you a lot of money. If you are working in a community or parish garden they are a must. One family we know planted hundreds of lily bulbs in a parish garden at a considerable cost to them in money and sweat. (OK. I confess. We were that family!) A week or two later, we spotted a crew of other parishioners who had apparently decided to dig up the entire garden and toss everything out. Save hurt feelings and make sure there’s a plan. It also helps if inexperienced gardeners don’t know that a particular plant is perennial and they shouldn’t pull it out! You can find inexpensive plastic markers or even use popsicle sticks.
We like these a lot. You can inscribe them with the identification and even a note Don’t Pull Me Out! I’m not dead! or Bulbs Growing Underneath Here.
You might want to plant a garden in honor of Our Lord, the Blessed Mother or a Saint for favors granted. Or, in a parish garden, donors always seem to want their gift advertised far and wide (and pastors never seem to remind them that if they are rewarded for good on earth, they will forego their reward in heaven, but that’s another matter). Here are some nice garden plaques that can be personalized.
These signs and others are available at
Tip: If you are doing this in a parish or public garden, prepare guidelines so your gardens don’t end up looking like a grave yard. The signage can quickly get out of control – and you don’t want to make it available only to those who have disposable incomes. Think about individuals and groups who donate their muscle.
Some gardeners can get lost in their work and you might not see them for hours. Just ask my husband. A garden bell is a wonderful way to call the hardworking crew (or children playing happily outside) in for dinner – or at a parish – for a cold glass of water. It is a wonderful tradition that your Catholic family or parish will treasure. So much nicer than shouting.
The Perpetual Sundial shown above reminds us of God’s eternal care for the earth and the souls who inhabit it. This can be placed on a pedestal. Available at Wind & Weather
Be sure to look around their site for valuable weather prediction tools.
|Irises deserve a place in the Mary garden as well. Their beautiful blue shades recall her mantle, while the spear shaped leaves that remain behind are like the swords of the Seven Sorrows that pierced her Immaculate Heart. Irises grow from tubers, and like many of the bulbs, they multiply annually. As a matter of fact, if you fail to divide them up, they won’t bloom as well! We like this blue shade collection from Breck’s and plan to add them to our garden this fall.
And, of course, if you can’t decide, Breck’s offers a number of economical collections. We particularly like the blue collection for Mary Gardens:
If your budget can accommodate it, a garden archway is a wonderful means of defining “sacred space” – by entering we consciously step out of the work-a-day world and into a place set aside for prayer and contemplation. If you are a parish, put up a wish list. There’s always someone who will be happy to beautify the Church grounds.
In the past, we constructed a beautiful garden gate from wood, but wood doesn’t last forever and after about ten years, it was time for it to come down with the resulting damage to the climbing roses and clematis that covered it.
Here’s one from Smith and Hawkins that you might like. The Monet Arch is a simple structure. Rather undistinguished in its bare bones but amazingly beautiful when it has become established. (Click on logo below to visit)
The Heart of the Catholic Garden
No Catholic garden is complete without roses. We recommend that you select some tea roses that are appropriate for cutting with longer stems and others, like the climbers, that bloom in abundance – just in time for the Feast of Corpus Christi. We don’t know if they’re still available, but K-Mart (or maybe it was Walmart) once carried a wonderful and affordable line of the Martha Stewart climbing roses. They have a great fragrance and are abundant bloomers.
The Peace Rose is a delicately colored and very fragrant tea rose that is usually considered the finest available.
Gurney’s has wonderful sales on roses. Take a look at their other products, too, including Daily Deals.
For climbers, there’s nothing like the Blaze rose (left below) OK. Maybe we’re partial since that’s our son’s name. And coming in second is Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors (right below). Both are prolific.
Save on these bulbs now
|We absolutely love these gladiolas which are perfect for cut flowers and yet don’t look at bit like they belong in a funeral parlor. And they’re winter hardy!
||Find Winter Hardy Glads at
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