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Gardening by creative design: themed gardens

May 21, 2014 - By Meg Peters

Review Staff Writer

Local residents learned a garden can be more expressive than a traditional harvesting plot after stopping in the Orion Township Public Library Thursday, May 15.

Wojo's Greenhouse specialists Kay Tatu and Jill Baker said it is all about design.

"If you pick a theme, you can choose your design and build your garden around that," Baker said. "Or you can do different themes and you can interconnect them with pathways or colors or lawn ornaments."

In their presentation on themed gardens Baker and Tatu covered salsa gardens, hummingbird and butterfly gardens, herb gardens, pizza gardens and other. They handed out fliers listing multiple other themed gardens for the gardener who wants to add a little pizzazz to their design process.

Different themes

Love salsa? Plant a grouping of cilantro, different types of tomato and pepper and onion in order to quickly snip your recipe when the plants have fruited. Enjoy pizza? Plant a spaghetti sauce garden with oregano, thyme, tomatoes and other favorite toppings.

Some of the easier themed gardens include both the salsa and pizza gardens along with cut-flower bouquet gardens, and fragrance/perfume gardens.

More intricate themes could be edible flower gardens, great for tea drinkers, twilight or moon gardens for plants that bloom at night, and for the naturalists interested in plants known for their healing properties an apothecary garden—including common fennel, Apothecary's Rose, rue, English lavender, sage, comfrey, lemon balm and peppermint—could be of use.

Themed gardens can also be a tool to get families interested in horticulture.

For kindergarteners who are learning their ABCs, an alphabet garden might be a fun little tool.

Start with the letter "A" and pick a plant for each letter all the way through, and get creative with those pesky "X's" and "Q's."

That crazy weather

Tatu said after this weekend, when the temperature at night is consistently in the upper 40s and 50s where it should be, it is safe to plant outside.

"Temperature will be the main issue," she said. "You're still going to have to watch your weather and if there is a frost warning you have to cover things."

Tatu said not to cover with plastic because it transmits the cold. She prefers something cloth, like old flannels, sheets and light blanket, but tarps are also popular to cover early start gardens. Watering will not be an issue, she added, so don't over water.

Something experimental

Local gardening enthusiast Brett Gray started his greenhouse garden in fall 2013 by digging a hole.

The hole-creation turned into a four-sided structure standing four feet high, fifteen feet long and three feet deep.

He has to crawl underground to get into it.

"I wanted something different," Gray said. "I wanted it to be big and massive but small enough to stay warm."

Inside the greenhouse feels like a bowl, with dirt hoisted up the sides to keep the warm, humid temperatures hovering above the plants. The temperature inside the greenhouse is about 20 degrees higher than outside temperatures, with a humidity level ranging between 60 and 100 percent.

All the arugula, mustard greens, watercress, kale, beets, bok choy, radishes, carrots, kohlrabi, sage, amaranth, flax, alyssum, nasturtium, poppy and calendula, along with multiple types of leaf lettuces, were started from seed last fall or early winter, and laid dormant until temperatures increased.

Gray's garden was an experiment on intuition. He will take the visqueen covering off in a few weeks when night temperatures are consistently warm.

"A big part of this is we wanted to have greens earlier," he said. "It depends on what you want. When you grow from the ground, the seeds sprout when they need to."

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