Prepare for bare spots amid 'the tender rush of spring'

The fern fronds have unfurled, the new rhododendron leaves are pushing out, the rose bushes are clothed with new leaves and vigorous canes are forming. The tender rush of spring is settling into the potential fullness of the summer season.

All the excitement of this first rush of growth can be tempered somewhat when we realize that despite our careful planning and planting, bare gaps appear where we were sure that we had created a full and harmonious tapestry of plants. So it must be time to go to the nursery again!

Most of the nurseries that I have visited have chosen an eclectic mix this year. There is more experimentation with foliage forms, flower colors, and scale. There are sweet miniatures with soft hues that seem just ripe to tuck into pots while other small 4-inch treasures will grow on vigorously during their short season.

All the great gardening books on perennial borders and beds have always spoken about the need to tuck in the annuals during the three seasons of the border.

However, the authors and gardens that are illustrated always refer to massive greenhouse facilities and staff that would grow these annual plants. Of course, the plants would be just at their correct readiness to be bedded out into the perennial border when a bare spot appeared. Thankfully our specialty nurseries have stepped up to the task.

The other new "annuals" now available are the plants commonly referred to as tender perennials. Put together an interesting mosaic of color using the tender coleus plants. They will not winter-over, and after one season their blaze of color may have brought boredom to the forefront, but they do effectively cover a bare spot!

Also, for the gardeners who must have bright hues throughout their garden beds, use vegetables, such as the rainbow chard variety.

The point is that given the wide range of plants now readily available for the home gardener, the only real difficulty is narrowing the selection for your garden.

Try to approach it with a sense of playfulness for there is not one right answer. There are always sure-fire successes and then there are the supremely delightful surprises that will only occur if you banish the rulebooks.

Settle in for the joys of the long summer evenings just ahead. Find a copy of In My Garden, written and illustrated with watercolors by A. Cort Sinnes (Andrews McMeel Publishing; ISBN 0-7407-4205-1; $9.95). His book is a sweetly joyous celebration.

It will put a smile on your face with its deceptive simplicity. I re-read it when I feel the 'I-can't-get-it-all-done' panic settling into my bones. The quiet humor and sweet wisdom reminds me to stay focused on the truly simple pleasures of gardening.[[In-content Ad]]