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Topic: Black Thumbed Gardening Newbie - Please Help!

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Subject: Black Thumbed Gardening Newbie - Please Help!
Date Posted: 5/23/2011 8:04 AM ET
Member Since: 1/14/2009
Posts: 41
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I have a tiny, WW2 era ranch house in a suburb just outside of Washington DC.  The previous owners had lived here for 60 years, so when we bought it 5 years ago, we had to re-do almost everything inside the house.  Now it's time to turn my attention to the outside, which terrifies me because I have a black thumb.  But my house has no curb appeal whatsoever and I am flat broke from all the remodeling of the inside.  I need to do this myself.

Where do I start?  I like books with lots of pictures and simple directions, and I need plants that are difficult to kill.

What's the best beginner book for someone with no skills who wants to make the front of her house look pretty?




Date Posted: 5/29/2011 8:58 PM ET
Member Since: 10/27/2007
Posts: 2,287
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First, I would suggest going to a local park or horticulture society in your area.  Take a notebook and write down some of the names of plants you find there.  Chances are they are native to that area.  Also keep an eye out for what your neighbors are growing too.  If you like something don't hestiate to ask the owner what it is.

Then, I would look on-line for more information about these plants like whether they prefer shade or not.  Next I would stop at a local nursery and ask a few more questions. 

Start off small and I would go for some perrenials that will give you some color right away but also come back each year.  Plants in pots are also good for a nice punch of color.  Many plants can be divided and then planted elsewhere.  But, this does take time for plants to spread out so be patient.

Date Posted: 6/4/2011 7:27 PM ET
Member Since: 3/15/2008
Posts: 397
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If you have any local community colleges, see if they have classes. Definitely go to any nearby botanical gardens, actually any kind of public garden or museum with a garden and talk to the docents. My local Home Depot (I'm in CA) has occasional 1-hour advice sessions; you should ask your local nurseries for education tips too. Walk your neighborhood and see if any of the front gardens appeal to you - maybe you can ask homeowners if you can take pictures. If you see a lot of any particular plant take note - it will do well in your area - but ask a nursery before you plant or you could get something really invasive. Go to the public library and look at their gardening books. Do a Google search on "Washingon DC gardening"; I found a couple sites that will be helpful for you.

I don't care much for the "Dummies" series of books; I'd look at the Sunset series instead. Search "Sunset gardening" here at PBS, there are a few right now that will help you. Don't get the "Western Garden Guide", it's not suited to your location.

And when you've moved onto having a green thumb check out my website devoted to gardening mail-order websites at http://www.gardenlist.com. Happy gardening!

Date Posted: 7/19/2011 1:42 AM ET
Member Since: 1/16/2009
Posts: 112
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You might also see if there is a chapter of Master Gardners in your area.  They are usually affiliated with a university and the local county ag department.  While they won't put your front yard in for you, they are armed with years of experience backed by university research and can steer you to the best plants and those to avoid.  A good resource!  And free!

Date Posted: 1/17/2012 1:20 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2012
Posts: 266
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If your not a gardener and don't want to become one don't go for flowers.  They take work.  Keep a nice lawn and add some yard art for interest.  Or make a nice little seating area or even a water feature.  Something that won't require a couple of hours of work every weekend that you can enjoy and appreciate.  If you really aren't into the out of doors think about a zen garden made with sand, rocks, and concrete.   

Date Posted: 2/1/2012 7:02 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2011
Posts: 2,353
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Just saw this book as I was looking at the available choices in gardening -

Washington DC Gardening

Let us know what you decide to plant.


Date Posted: 2/3/2012 8:10 AM ET
Member Since: 1/29/2007
Posts: 3,365
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I'd suggest taking a walk around the neighborhood and looking at the neighbor's yards. You will get some ideas of plants that grow well in your area. I often have trouble here finding some of the plants suggested in books, so many gardeing books are useless to me. I have found a few blogs of gardeners in my area and get great ideas from them. So, try looking for gardening blogs for people in DC. Good luck.

Really, anyone can garden, you may have to write yourself notes to remember to water and such, but it can be rewarding to have all those gorgeous plants growing.