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By Ariana Mangum M. Ariana H. Mangum is the daughter of artist William G. Mangum and the grand-niece of Charles S. Mangum, founder of the School of Public Health at UNC. Born in Chapel Hill, she has lived in a number of places including Italy, and recently returned to North Carolina to care for her aging parents. She has worked as a landscape designer and gardener through her company Les Jardins Cachet.

Bringing A Garden Back To Life

By Ariana Mangum Posted June 20, 2014 at 8:00 am

I was given the opportunity to design and plant an iris garden. The customer was surprised when I had to dig through three feet of mulch before reaching any dirt. I made the decision to remove the mulch and amend the entire garden using a recipe of topsoil, peat moss, compost and lime.

The mystery behind years of no blossoms on the crepe myrtle tree and the roses that graced the garden area was answered: the plants were trying to thrive in mulch. The new garden, with rich garden soil selected to give the plants needed nourishment, was in place.

irisYellow irises were collected from another area that over time had become heavily shaded. These were transplanted into the new amended garden along with two peach trees and a peony. These would give the garden a pale pink backdrop to the warm yellow of the irises. The deep pink of the roses and crepe myrtle would give strong color to the garden throughout the summer. And the garden, although small, would make a focal point for the driveway.

peachWhen the spring came, the yellow irises bloomed and dressed the garden in a bounty of color, with the peony and peach trees adding their soft pink splendor. We waited anxiously to see if the roses and crepe myrtle would add their pink color for the summer. To our surprise and delight, the tree burst forth with its deep pink blossoms and the pink Knock Out roses continuously bloomed all summer.

The plants which had never bloomed before now gave a gorgeous, colorful display. The new garden delighted the senses and gave great enjoyment to a homeowner who had waited for years to see her garden bloom.

roseMulch is wonderful, but it can build up over the years. A good plan is to add a soil mixture to the garden beds throughout the year; this effort can save a garden from mulch madness.

I like to add soil in spring, fall and winter, and I keep a check on more vulnerable areas in the summer, such as slopes or areas that have more erosion due to water runoff (which can expose roots).

I like using the soil conditioners for mulch on some gardens, and light mulch on others. Mulch is a wonderful additive to gardens and the right amount is beneficial. The key is to keep the mulch from hurting the plants in the garden by providing too much of it.

Happy plants make for lush and happy gardens.

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