Great Gardening Tips from Professional Landscape Designer Donna Hackman

I visited Highland Spring Farm in Marshall recently for a private tour the lushly planted English style gardens created by landscape designer and home owner Donna Hackman.

Hackman spent twenty plus years planting and working her garden as a labor of love.

Here are her tips for your own fabulous garden:

Highland Spring Farm boasts hundreds of beautiful roses all grown without chemical sprays. It's hard to believe, I know, but landowner Donna Hackman doesn't want to poison even one bird just to have pretty roses. "With a little tough love, roses thrive in our area."

1. Choose rose varieties that you've seen successfully grown in other area gardens with similar growing conditions to your own garden.

2. If a rose doesn't perform well, move it to another location and see what happens. If it doesn't work well there, try moving it one more time. After three location attempts, if it still doesn't grow well or continues to be diseased, yank it out an throw it away.

"Never give plant that doesn't perform well to someone else. If it doesn't perform for you, it's not going to perform for them either."

3. Use "Bayer" brand rose food to feed your roses. It takes care of aphids.

4. Cut back roses that bloom only once per season hard after the blooms have faded. You'll get stronger roots and more growth the following season.

5. Let repeat bloomers flower in the early spring then, as the beetles begin to appear, cut off all the new blossoms and prune back lightly. This encourages strong root growth and better blossoms just as it does with roses that bloom once per season. The bushes will bloom again after the beetles have naturally cycled away.

"I know we think that repeat blooming roses (even Knock Out roses) should keep blooming and blooming but why struggle with them (and Japanese beetles) all season long when it's so easy just to enjoy them at their prettiest?"

Recipe for Raised Beds
"Top soil costs a lot of money to buy. Use organic matter that you have around the garden to stretch and amend the soil you already have."

Place a thick layer of flattened cardboard boxes and/or newspaper at the bottom of your bed. (Don't use the glossy advertising pages or magazines.)

Top with a thick layer of leaves and/or grass clippings.

Cover the whole thing with top soil to planting depth.

Over time, the cardboard, leaves and grass clippings will decompose so your planting material may shrink. Top off your beds as needed with additional soil, leaves and grass clippings.

To Mulch or Not to Mulch - That is the question
"I've got so much going on in the garden that I don't have time to mulch. I plant everything close together so (as the plants grow) they naturally spread out and block the weeds."

The shade that close planting creates keeps the ground moist plus, as a bonus, tall growing plants can lean on neighboring plants for support so there not much staking to do either.

Planting Pergolas
Got a pergola?
"Try planting it with clematis," Hackman says.

"People typically plant roses or wisteria on pergolas but roses bring (Japanese) beetles and wisteria brings bees. Either way you've got annoying bugs buzzing around just when you want to sit outside under the pergola."

Clematis is an easy care, vining plant that flowers May to June leaving behind a lush, green, bug - free cover on your pergola for the rest of the season.

Herons Coming Home To Roost?
Herons love to take up residence anywhere there's a pond full of fish and plants. While they're beautiful birds to look at, they'll eat your gold fish and munch on your (expensive!) water plants.

Hackman feels that commercial heron repellants detract from the natural beauty of a pond so she devised an inexpensive (and practically invisible) way to keep herons in check without harming them.

"I get cheap fishing line and randomly crisscross it under the water in the pond - looping it around the submerged potted plants. I don't make any real pattern, I just create an underwater grid that will annoy the heron by prevent him from walking around the pond in search of food."

The grid pattern is large enough so a heron doesn't get trapped. "He's free to leave anytime he wants - but without lunch."

Word seems to travel fast in the heron world because Hackman's pond isn't the rest stop it used to be.


Land Trust of Virginia Garden Party

Highland Spring Farm will host this year's Land Trust of Virginia Garden Party to save our land from development. It will be an educational and inspirational event!

Sunday, June 1, 2008
Tickets - $45 per person
Refreshments by Celebrations Catering
Call 540.687.8441
Sponsorships available

Can't plan in advance? Don't worry. Tickets will be available at the door.


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