Often, in relationships, responsibilities are divided. One person cooks, the other cleans. Last one out of the bed makes it. If you help your kid with common core math, you get a pass on bath time.

In my household, we also have the I’m inside, hubby is outside chores split. To be honest, it started out that way because I’d rather do laundry than garden (or pick up dog poop but that’s a different article) and it became our norm.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being outdoors. I love the smell of fresh soil, the breeze in the trees, the sounds of birds. When the magnolia trees in my neighborhood bloom, I’ve been known to stop what I’m doing and breathe in the fragrance. I even have a favorite type of garden; I’m drawn to the overgrown wildflower gardens over the more structured flowerbeds.

But outside is my husband’s realm and he tends to our yard. He grows his own vegetables, and even planted a raspberry bush for me because raspberries are my favorite. The kids gave him an avocado tree for Easter one year. He has green bushes and various flowers and I don’t know the names of any of them except the lavender bush, but that’s because the smell gives it away. Our yard is pretty, well-kept and colorful. No thanks to me.

I’ve never had much desire to plant, tend to, or create my own outdoor paradise. My mom used to garden when I was a kid, and if I was asked to help, it was torture. Worst. Chore. Ever.

This much I know, tending to a garden is more than just throwing seeds into the wind. You need tools. Special gardening tools. Did you know that there are more than 14 types of rakes? I did not. Google it, and you too can get lost in size, tine shape, and curvature.

Thankfully I’m surrounded by family members who love to garden, so to simplify, I inquired about essential gardening tools from my family of experts:

  • Trowel with serrated edges
  • Hand held bypass pruner
  • Shovel
  • Hoe
  • Loppers
  • Garden rake
  • Leaf rake

While this list is not exhaustive, and only recommends two rakes, it will get your garden toolshed started.

Because my thumb is not green, over the years, I’ve turned to my aunt and cousin for advice. They received many a picture from me when my dog was a puppy, asking if a certain plant was edible and I consider them my own personal garden encyclopedias.

To gain a better understanding of what to plant with those gardening tools, I asked the burning questions this novice gardener wanted to know, starting with the WHY.

Why do you enjoy gardening?

KS – [Gardening is] where I can decompress, feel productive, and the result is always pleasing. Finding and pulling weeds is like doing puzzles- finding the small, minute details of the weed seedlings vs. new plant seedlings.

DM – I love the beauty of plants. They are all so different and intricate. They brighten the environment in my surroundings and bring other living creatures into the yard. It is fun watching the yard grow and develop over the years. At the end of a good day gardening, it is satisfying to sit back and admire the view.

What makes gardening in Spring different or better?

KS – Spring means it’s time to clean up the yard from winter (leaf litter, weeds, etc.) and get it ready for the new growth of perennials, shrubs and trees. Clear out flower beds to plant new color whether annuals or perennials. Fertilize for better growth and more blooms.

DM – Spring and Fall are the best times for planting. Spring is full of promise…all the buds are popping; the roses are leafing out and the major pruning is complete. You can see what survived and/or thrived in the winter rains and where plants need to be replaced. The drawback is the weeds also pop out so there is a lot of cleanup and weeding to do (which I hate) but everything is so pretty and fresh it is a joy to be out there. I like to disperse spring and summer blooming bulbs throughout the yard. They come up as a surprise. Daffodils are the best in spring because they are so happy.



Any strategies for bringing birds and butterflies into your garden?

KS – Birds like fountains, bird baths and bird feeders. It’s easy to attract hummingbirds with certain plants like sage/salvia (900 species), cuphea, penstemon, and fuschia. Butterflies like mostly the same and butterfly bush (buddleja), achillea (yarrow), snapdragon, echinacea, delphinium, ceanothus, lavender.

DM – I like to attract hummingbirds with flowers that have tubular blooms. They can hover and extract the nectar with their long beaks. Birds are all different in what they like. Most appreciate a tree or two, some protective cover shrubs (to retreat to in the presence of predators) and a water source.  From there it depends on whether they like seeds (put out a seed feeder for those) or if they are bug eaters. Then a variety of plants are good so there is an abundance of bugs for them. Butterflies like bright flowers (think daisies and Echinacea (cone flowers) or buddleia. They are looking for nectar as well as a place to lay their eggs that will provide food for the larva when they emerge.

Best fruits/veggies to plant in Spring?

KS – Any citrus. Peas, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs.

DM – I don’t do edible gardening.  I usually plant one or two tomato plants but not I’m not a good source for other suggestions.

Favorite plants for color?

KS – Roses (floribundas or tea), Crape Myrtle, flowering annuals (double impatiens, geraniums, double begonias, petunias, pansies), sage/salvia.

DM – Hydrangea, weigela, coreopsis, daylily, bougainvillea.

Favorite plants for shady yards?

KS – Hosta, lamium, brunnera, columbine, ferns, astillbe, hellebore.

DM – Hosta, azalea, ferns, astilbe (for wet areas) and succulents. Lots of succulents, especially in drought prone areas like California. Camellias and hydrangeas are always a nice addition to any yard with partial shade (morning sun).

Favorite plants for sunny yards?

KS – Sage/salvia, penstemon, rose

DM – Roses, clematis, dahlias, delphinium and annuals like zinnias. I like blooming shrubs and trees such as lorapetalum (razzleberry), ceanothus, weigela,flowering cherry, crape myrtle.

Favorite garden you’ve visited or want to visit and why?

KS – Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens– beautiful grounds, love the rose garden and the museum. Hearst Castle– for the design of the landscape and use of plants as ornaments and the architecture. Strybing Arboretum– great place to learn.

DM- Filoli, it is magnificent, especially in spring when the azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom.  Disneyland is great too.

Gardens come in all shapes, sizes, and types and bring joy to almost everyone, including non-gardeners like myself. You don’t have to create and cultivate your own garden, to appreciate the beauty of nature. Like Dody said, “Spring is full of promise” and it’s true, for Spring brings opportunities of resurrection and growth. So, as the winter weather subsides, and the sun shines more bright, consider planting this Spring. You may be surprised by what blooms. “To plant a garden, is to believe in tomorrow” – Audrey Hepburn