The Best Flower Combinations for Stellar Gardens

Garden Center

One plus one often equals much more than two—and that’s especially true in the garden. A full-blooming flower on its own is a sight to behold, but surrounding it with contrasting blooms is where gardening meets artistry. In a sense, gardening is all about creating stellar flower combinations that elevate one another. Here are a few to get you started!   

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - Perennial Garden Combinations --salvia daylily and garden phlox flowersSalvia – Daylily – Garden Phlox

Salvia is the first of this trio to open its flowers. The indigo towers bloom in late spring, and if you cut them back, they continue flowering all the way until fall. They’re soon joined by the beautiful contrast of daylilies, which unfurl a barrage of yellow or orange flowers from late spring to early summer. The glowing pink petals of garden phlox join the mix by midsummer. 

These complimentary flower shapes and colors are sure to make a stellar portrait in the garden. All of them prefer full sun and well-drained soil.  

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - Perennial Garden Combinations --catmint tickseed and blazing star flowersCatmint – Tickseed – Blazing Star 

Here’s a combination to take the spotlight in the middle of the growing season! It begins with the light blue glow of catmint, along with its soothing fragrance, in late spring. From June to September, tickseed unfurls a cloud of bright yellow flowers above the finely textured leaves. By midsummer, blazing star displays impressive wands of frizzy lavender petals.   

The combination of heights and colors brings a splendid contrast to the perennial garden during the hottest months. These plants prefer full sun to part shade and average moisture.  

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - Perennial Garden Combinations -echinacea goldenrod and new england asterEchinacea – Goldenrod – New England Aster 

This triad of flowers brings music to the garden in late summer and fall. The fluorescent purple or white petals of echinacea start blooming in midsummer. They carry on their tune right into the fall when they’re joined by the sunset yellows of goldenrod. New England aster joins the chorus around the same time—late August or early September—with the star-like violet petals.  

These late-season bloomers provide a banquet for the senses, as well as the pollinators. They all thrive in full sun or part shade and well-draining soil. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - Perennial Garden Combinations -ligularia swamp mallow and great blue lobelia flowersLigularia – Swamp Milkweed – Great Blue Lobelia 

Here’s a combination to take advantage of any wet conditions in the garden. Ligularia’s vibrant yellow or orange blooms and mound of dramatic foliage set the scene with a cheerful backdrop. Then comes the swamp milkweed with its clouds of pink petals, which butterflies adore. Meanwhile, the great blue lobelia unfurls towers of ethereal blue petals above leafy stems throughout the summer. 

This stellar combination thrives in wet meadows, moist soils, or at the edge of ponds. They’re also great candidates for a rain garden.   

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - Perennial Garden Combinations -hosta white aster and fern plantsHosta – White Wood Aster – Fern

Here’s a team of perennials to bring beauty to the shade garden. Hostas offer lush green or variegated green leaves and subtle pink or white flowers that open sometime during the summer, depending on the variety. The white wood aster, like other asters, saves its beautiful white blooms for the fall. Meanwhile, ferns anchor the space with graceful green fronds that freshen the air throughout the growing season. 

If you were ever wondering what to do with a shady area, this is a great combination to try. Ferns like evenly moist soil, while the hosta and white wood aster are adaptable to many soil types.

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - Perennial Garden Combinations -summer garden sunset over the flowersHow to Create Your Own Flower Combinations 

If you’re feeling creative, try experimenting with your own perennial combinations. Look for beautiful color contrasts, varied leaf textures, and differing flower shapes. Keep in mind that combining plants with similar light, soil, and moisture needs will give your garden the best opportunity to thrive. 

For more inspiration on stellar garden flower combinations, visit our garden center in Moultonborough, and follow us on Facebook or Instagram

Everything You Need to Know About Mulch

Garden Center · Landscape Design

Mulch is arguably an essential part of the garden. It adds beauty, reduces our workload, and benefits the soil in many ways. There are so many types of mulch available; how do you choose the best one? Here’s a breakdown of wood and rock mulch and the advantages and trade-offs of each kind!  

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - everything you need to know about mulch -bean bag toss game with mulch playing areaThe Benefits of Wood Mulch 

Wood mulch usually comes in two forms: bark mulch and wood chips. Both are by-products of the lumber and paper industries, offering many benefits to the home garden. 

  • Moisture: they hold moisture in the soil, reducing the need for water. 
  • Protection: they protect the soil from erosion, wind, rain, and UV rays. Plus, they protect plants from extremes of heat and cold and the thaw-freeze cycle of early spring.
  • Reduce Weeding: mulch significantly reduces your weeding by preventing weeds from accessing the soil. 
  • Improve Soil: as the mulches break down, they furnish the soil with decaying organic matter and nutrients, which benefits the whole garden ecosystem. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - everything you need to know about mulch -wood mulch in gardenBark Mulch vs. Wood Chips 

Both share all of the advantages mentioned above and differ mainly in aesthetics. You’ll find a wide selection of sizes and colors among both bark mulch and wood chips. The choice is mainly a personal preference about what you find beautiful and how your mulch best fits into the overall look of your landscape. 

A small consideration is that large, chunky mulch generally takes longer than small ones to break down and tends to shift around more in the garden during rainfall. Mulch from certain types of trees, like cedar, also lasts longer since the wood naturally resists decay.     

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - everything you need to know about mulch -mulch pathway of rocksThe Benefits of Rock Mulch 

Rocks are another way to enhance the beauty of your garden, protect the soil, and reduce the workload of weeding. Rocks don’t break down as quickly as wood mulch, meaning you don’t have to replace them as often. If they become dirty, you can hose them off, and if leaves fall on them, it’s easy to blow any debris from the surface. 

A trade-off of their durability is that they don’t add nutrients to the soil. They can also be annoying to move if you want to access the soil for new plantings, etc. During the hot summer days, rocks also capture the heat, making them ideal for cactus gardens, rock gardens, or plants that benefit from warm and dry soil.

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - everything you need to know about mulch -rock mulch in gardenTypes of Rock Mulch 

  • River Rock: these are smooth, naturally weathered stones in uniform gray, white, black, or a mix of colors. They come in different sizes. 
  • Crushed Stone: this mulch is made by crushing larger rocks. As a result, they have a rugged texture. They come in a variety of sizes and colors. 
  • Gravel and Pebble: these are the smallest type of rock mulch. They lend a particular zen look to a garden and are easier to shift around if necessary. They can be smooth like river rock or rugged like crushed stone.  

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - Everything You Need to Know About Mulch-assorted bulk mulchWhat Is the Best Type of Mulch?     

All mulch has the benefits of enhancing the beauty of your garden, reducing weeds, and protecting soil from the elements. Beyond that, wood mulch has the extra benefit of bringing nutrients to the soil, whereas rock mulch has the advantage of being durable. There’s really no “best” type of mulch. The choice is yours, depending on your tastes and application in the garden

Straw, grass clippings, and shredded leaves bring many practical benefits to the garden as well. They hold in moisture, suppress weeds, protect the soil surface, and add nutrients to the garden. However, these products don’t bring the same aesthetic benefit. They’re best in vegetable gardens or to add a layer of nutrients to a bed before winter. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - everything you need to know about mulch -strawberries in straw mulchHow to Install Mulch 

Mulch is pretty straightforward to install, provided that you follow some basic guidelines. Ideally, you should have 2–3 inches of mulch evenly spread throughout your garden bed—don’t make piles around the base of your plants, as this can harbor pests! Ensure you don’t bury your plants or go above the crown of the plant—it will cause the plant to generate roots too high and girdle the plant. Make sure you leave your perennials uncovered so they can come back next year, and you’re all set! 

When it’s time to add more mulch, take a look at the condition of your existing mulch before you add more; old mulch can become compacted over time, or it might not break down the way you anticipated. If your mulch isn’t breaking down, adding more will thicken the layer of mulch beyond the recommended 3-inch maximum, which won’t help your garden! In this case, it’s best to clear out the previous layers before adding fresh mulch.

To find the best type of mulch for your garden, visit our garden center in Moultonborough, where you can peruse our bulk products, including spruce and hemlock, and our wide selection of bagged mulch, including cedar. We also have a handy bulk material calculator on our website to tackle the math for your project! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Instagram for the latest sales and updates!


It’s Time for Spring Clean-Up in Moultonborough!

Garden Center · Landscape Maintenance

Spring cleaning isn’t just for your closets and cupboards! Doing a thorough clean-up of your landscape every spring is important—after all, patio season is about to begin! Plus, it’s an opportunity to go through your yard and identify any problem areas that need attention. 

Add These Outdoor Tasks to Your Spring Clean-Up Chore List 

Grab your waterproof boots, garden gloves, and Bluetooth speaker, pick a good musical motivation playlist, and let’s tackle this spring landscape chore list!

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -raking thatchDethatch and Aerate the Lawn

After a snowy winter, grass can get pretty matted, and the soil may be compacted. To dethatch your lawn, run a rake through the grass to tear up the tangles. Now it will be able to grow lush and thick. While you have the rake, this is a good opportunity to clear any sticks or debris lying around. 

To aerate the lawn, use a spike aerator or plug aerator to make holes in the soil, introducing oxygen and loosening the ground. These holes will allow moisture to drain properly so that the roots of your lawn and garden plants won’t sit in stagnant water and develop mold. Good drainage is essential for healthy spring growth! 

Prune Winter Damage

If any of your shrubs or trees sustained damage over the winter, trim them off with sterilized shears. Be mindful about pruning healthy growth on your landscape plants to reshape them—some late-blooming plants like to be pruned in spring, but if you prune your spring-blooming plants, you’ll lose all those nice flower buds. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -wheelbarrow of mulchReplace Old Mulch 

Mulch naturally breaks down over time, which is great for your soil, but it can start to look a bit funky in the spring after the snow melts. Gently clean it out with a rake—be careful not to damage your garden plants in the process—and spread a fresh layer. We have plenty of mulch here at Stephen’s Landscaping Garden Center; if you need help finding a good color match, you’re welcome to show us a picture of what you’re looking for, and we can get you the perfect product. 

Freshen Up Your River Rock

River rock is a more long-term alternative to mulch, but it can still break down over time. If the rocks in your landscape still have some life, you can wash them with the hose on a spray setting. If it’s looking a bit worse for wear this spring, you can replace it with a fresh batch! 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -pressure washing deckPower Wash the Hardscapes

Power washing the patio, pavers, and driveway is an excellent opportunity to survey the whole area and see if there is any damage you’ll need to fix, spots that need touch-ups, or materials that need replacing. If there are any repair jobs you aren’t confident you can pull off by yourself, bring in a picture of the project to our garden center, and we’ll help you figure out a game plan. 

Keep an Eye Out for Pests or Fungus

Dealing with pest and fungus problems in the spring will be much easier than tackling them in the summer once they’ve gotten considerably worse! Keep an eye out for these signs in your lawn or garden plants:

  • Discoloration
  • Cottony coating
  • Visible bite marks in foliage
  • Dead patches or rings in the grass

Depending on the issue, you may be able to use an all-natural, organic solution, but sometimes severe issues may require chemical fungicides or insecticides. Ask our experts for advice if you’re unsure of how to proceed. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -cutting perennialsCut Back Your Perennials

We recommend cutting back old plant material from your garden perennials to a few inches above the ground; this will help allow for a new, healthy flush of spring growth, uninhibited by the leftovers from last year. If there are no signs of disease or fungus in the trimmings, you can toss them in the compost bin.  

If you want to go beyond just a simple spring clean-up in 2022 and would like to do a significant landscape redesign and rejuvenation, you know who to call; we can help you choose the perfect plants for your garden designs and projects! Visit Stephen’s Landscaping Garden Center to explore your options for sprucing up your outdoor space. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates and featured products.