Making your garden grow

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Tackling your landscape can be quite the undertaking and, whether a novice dirt pusher or a professional perennial sculptor, you need a plan. Not to mention, a quality retailer nearby that houses a wide variety of supplies to help accomplish your outdoor dream.

The first of four area gardening centers is The Growing Place in west suburban Naperville. Chicago Shopping spoke to Heather Prince, assistant marketing manager of The Growing Place, about preparing your 2013 landscape and garden projects. By simply weaving your personal style, your specific needs and placing plants that compliment the soil and layout of your land, any outdoor project can be a success.

“We try to help homeowners plant for the future,” said Prince. “Our mantra is: The right plant for the right space.”

But how do you know which plants will thrive in your specific gardening space?

“Coming into any garden center having an idea of what you would like to accomplish with your project is important,” states Prince. “Do you want an edible garden? A butterfly haven? Do you need to boost your curb appeal? Entertaining? A kid-friendly retreat?” 

Prince recommends gathering the following information before visiting your nearest garden center:

Size.  Prince encourages gardeners to take a lay of their land before coming in and knowing the approximate size of the space in which you want to grow.

Get your hands dirty. Walk around. Get your fingers into the soil! This will help you describe the state of your dirt to garden experts, who will in turn be able to help you select the best plant for your space.

Know your exposure. What kind of sun exposure do you have in the morning, noon, and evening? Is your piece of property prone to dry patches or wet areas? What about wind exposure?

If possible, take pictures of your plot in all 4 seasons – winter, spring, summer, fall.

Ask questions. If on a budget, know your priorities. There are easy (and budget-friendly) ways to transition from season to season and still have a beautiful plant palette.

Educate yourself and get inspired. Taking classes to learn more about native plants, tips and tools for your garden are available at The Growing Place and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

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Need some inspiration? Prince suggests taking a stroll through the Learning Gardens at The Growing Place, reading Chicagoland Gardening Magazine or visiting the Chicago Botanic Garden. “Pinterest is also a great place for inspiration, but just make sure the pictures display foliage and flowers that can be grown in the Midwest.”

Prince’s suggested tools for gardening success? Basic setups should include a sharp spade, hand pruner, dandelion weeder, small trowel and gloves.

What’s in stock at the Growing Place? A sizeable selection (more than 3,000 varieties!) of trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, ground cover, herbs, bulbs, seeds and vegetables.

A snippet of 2013 classes at The Growing Place through May include No Fuss Veggie Gardening, Landscaping 101: Curb Appeal, Designing for Tough Sites, Magical Miniature and Fairy Garden Tour, Make a Spring Basket. 

Visit thegrowingplace.com for more information about classes and an online gardening catalog.

A big box, with big offerings for local Chicago gardeners is Lowes.

Outside Lawn and Garden Department Manager at Lowes, Betsy Beyer, was concerned about the repairing and replenishing of lawns and gardens after last year’s drought. “Caring for your damaged landscaping and grass will be imperative this year,” said Beyer. “The insects also took a toll on foliage, so re-nourishing trees and shrubs with products like Sta-Green Nitro-fuse, which is seed and fertilizer in one, coated with a water-absorbent coating for maximum water retention.”

Keeping pests out is just as important to your garden as welcoming guests in. Bird seed and feeders abound at Lowes in addition to wheelbarrows, carts, rain barrels, urns, mulch, an array of containers and pots, window boxes, gardening tools and green houses.

With in-store nursery specialists assisting customers, Lowes also offers online support in the form of MyLowes.com, which keeps track of your in-store and online purchases for future reference. This tool comes in handy when you are purchasing mulch or dirt for the next gardening season. Landscape design principles and tips for new gardeners are also available.

Well-known gardening brands found at the mega home store include Fiskars, MiracleGrow, Lilly Miller, Burpee, Earth Minded, RoundUp and Corona Gardening Tools.

An eco-friendly, gardening option in the Chicago area, is Green Home Experts Garden Center in Oak Park.

The Garden Center at Green Home Experts features a variety of natural, organic and non-toxic supplies to outfit your garden or landscaping project, all staying true to the caring for and nurturing of the earth.

Entering into their second gardening season, Green Home Experts in Oak Park has learned that customers are confident about investing into their gardens if the soil is healthy.

“Healthy soil will get your garden off to a good start,” said Maria Onesto Moran, Queen Bee at Green Home Experts. “Edible plants were very popular last season, so much, in fact, that we offer canning classes during the year to support our customers after their crop is harvested.”

All plants are locally and sustainably grown featuring annuals, perennials, vegetables and herbs. The Garden Center is well-stocked with soil, fertilizer, mulch and ecoSMART, the safe pesticide solution. (ecoSMART is safe around children, pets and the environment containing the natural defenses that plants and trees use – namely, essential oils.)

Not sure what you would like to do with your garden? The Garden Center conveniently offers templates with plants lists for customers for rain and veggie gardens and companion planting. Container planting is also offered, just bring in your desired plant receptacle and the Green Home Experts will do the rest!

Featured brands at the store: Doctor Earth Soil, Botanical Interest seeds, Terra Cycle, St. Gabriel Organics.

Upcoming gardening classes in 2013 inclued Building a Successful Container Garden, Fairy and Dino Gardens, Organic Lawn Care, Building a Butterfly Habitat and Canning Classes.

The other two thirds of the retail store (Build Green and Live Green, respectively in their 6th year of business) work with individuals, builders, designers and architects to provide eco-friendly solutions for everyday living. 

For more information about Green Home Experts, visit ghexperts.com.

Another larger chain store local gardeners won’t want to pass up is The Home Depot.

Creating a high-rise or roof top garden requires guidance and knowledge of plants that thrive in a variety of environments. “We must be able to accommodate where our customers are planting, and if that is the 20th floor of a high-rise in the middle of Chicago, we can certainly help,” said Home Depot Garden Expert, Ken Stouffer, of the North Avenue Home Depot. “Wall-hangings, raised bed and container gardening was popular for Chicago in 2012.”

The Home Depot carries a variety of gardening and landscaping products, including annuals and perennials, bulbs, cacti, vegetables, herbs, shrubs, trees, manure and mushroom mix.

“Knowing your needs before your enter the store is always helpful, but we are certainly able to talk you through the process and find the right plants for your desired outcome,” said Stouffer.

Brands include Ryobi, Bonnie Plants, Martha Stewart Living, Proven Winners and dotchi planters.

Step-by-step weekend project tutorials like fashioning a compost bin and creating a mailbox garden are featured at HomeDepot.com in addition to The Garden Club, with email only offers and thriving online community of gardeners.

For more information visit the The Garden Club.

 

The common theme among retailers for success of 2013 outdoor projects?

Take a few moments before you descend upon your local garden center to gather your thoughts, know your likes and dislikes in terms of plants and become familiar with your land. Herbs and vegetables were high on the list as customers are preferring to grow their own foods. Each retailer excelled in customer service and all expressed a sincere excitement for helping customers through the process of planning their garden or landscaping project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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