KEARNEY — Coelette Gruber and Kendra Larkin are horticulturalists, and, as spring approaches they’re relishing the excitement. Soon they’ll be busy doing what they love: Planting and caring for plants.
The city of Kearney’s Park and Recreation Department brought the two horticulturalists on board after the initial planting of the botanical garden at Yanney Heritage Park last year. Brock Steinbrink of Steinbrink Landscaping and Greenhouses designed the gardens and supervised the planting last year.
Larkin and Gruber will have responsibility for the thousands of plants that make up the botanical gardens. In addition, they’ll be applying their skills by helping the park staff make other plantings in Kearney’s network of beautiful parks as they spring to life with color and vitality.
Gruber and Larkin know about plants and gardens, so they are the experts we asked for advice about landscaping around homes.
The women shared five key tips:
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Tip No. 1: Put the right plant in the right place.
Larkin and Gruber said plants are a bit like people. They want to live where they feel at home, so it’s important to evaluate the place where the plants will be living before planting anything. Is the spot bathed in sunlight? How about watering requirements and soil conditions?
Pairing the right plants with the right place increases the chances for success. Some plants might thrive in a warm sunny spot while others might whither from stress and require much more attention.
Tip No. 2: Maintenance is a must.
If you have a busy, unpredictable lifestyle, you probably aren’t going to be able to commit the time and energy for a successful landscape. No worries, Gruber and Larkin said to ask the staff at the nursery or garden store to set you up with “set ‘em and forget ‘em” plants. Do your homework, and select plants that will provide you the level of challenge you desire. Be honest and try not to over-challenge yourself. Remember that maintaining a beautiful garden requires a commitment of time and energy.
Weeding is a necessity and will be the commitment that significantly improves your garden.
Tip No. 3: Make your landscape pop.
After doing your homework on site selection and maintenance, you’re ready for the exciting stuff: Selecting the colors and textures that will make your garden an eye catcher. Similar to selecting paint colors for your walls, when you pick your plants you’ll have the opportunity to bring together an assortment of colors and textures that attract the eye and boost interest in your landscape. Gruber said one of the most satisfying aspects of gardening is blending colors — but keep some space open for complementary colors. Allow for a little contrast and you’ll boost the visual interest of your garden.
Tip No. 4: Space plants for the future.
Assuming you’ll be taking good care of your plants, don’t be surprised if they grow larger as time passes. When plants grow, they gradually expand into the open spaces that surround them. Growth is natural and it’s desirable, but overcrowding can be undesirable. Ask when you buy a plant what kind of growth you can expect. If you have plants that grow aggressively, take that trait into consideration when planting and leave extra space that your aggressive growing plants can expand into. If you feel as if there’s too much space, fill the space with a smaller plant that will fill the space temporarily and can be removed and replanted elsewhere when larger plants grow into their space.
Tip No. 5: Learn from others.
Fishermen aren’t known for sharing their favorite fishing holes, but gardeners are different. Many are happy to talk about what has worked in their gardens and what hasn’t. Don’t be shy about asking questions. Also, if you want to learn more about gardening and landscaping, Larkin and Gruber suggest joining a garden club, taking a class or volunteering.
The horticulturalists are planning to offer twice-weekly classes, 8-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Garden Gabs classes will feature 15- to 20-minute lessons, hands-on activities and an opportunity to network and meet other gardeners.
Gruber and Larkin also are excited about a volunteer opportunity. It’s happening May 14, and it will challenge volunteers to join in planting 6,000 annuals at the Yanney Park Botanical Gardens.
The horticulturalists anticipate they will need about 70 volunteers for the event, which they’re calling the Big Dig. Larkin and Gruber will share more information about the Big Dig as the event gets closer.
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