Because it seems only fair that readers of my blog should be able to visualize the gardens that I'm working on, I thought I should post a photo of my newly "completed" front gardens. I took this shot a few days ago, when the sky was one of those jewel-like hues of blue.
I, obviously, like the cottage garden look - informal, blowsy, crowded, rich, vibrant.... The side of the garden closest to the house has been in for a year or more and the plants are thus significantly larger. The side of the garden nearest the camera is what I've been working on this spring. For the most part, this is the "year to sleep" for most of these plants - they are little and likely to remain that way at least until next spring. (That phrase is from another of the gardening mantras I learned in Mobile, "A year to sleep, a year to creep, a year to leap." For an impatient gardener who wants to see results NOW, this mantra helps remind her to have patience and give new plants a chance to get acclimated to their new spots before expecting them to look gorgeous.)
Don't forget, though, that native plants can be used in many different ways - they don't require a cottage garden setting to look good and perform well. In fact, if the focus is to be on the specific plants, a more formal garden or a more "manicured" garden can really highlight them better.
While I'm deep watering the new side of the garden every 5 days or so during the dry heat until it gets established, I've hardly had to water the older, more established side at all this summer. (I've spot watered the beebalm on that side a time or two, when it started to look wilted.) I've never fertilized, and I hardly have to even pull any weeds since the flowers have grown large enough to keep the soil shaded and covered on their own.
There's lots more to do, and it shows up especially strongly in a photo, but this is a start...and I'm learning tons while having a lot of fun. Besides which, a garden is NEVER truly complete, not even for a moment.