CARIBOU, Maine — Some have a knack for making beautiful gardens grow — and others have a hard time growing anything but weeds.
Kimber and Cindy Noyes have been growing flowers for 40 years as owners of Noyes Flower and Plant Shop in Caribou — and their historic greenhouse has been serving the folks of Aroostook County since 1919. Kimber said the greenhouse is the oldest one north of Portland.
All sorts of plants expertly bloom under their care, and Kimber recently laid out a quick guide to planting that’s simple enough to be followed by the most novice gardener.
Getting the plant into the ground may seem simple enough, but there’s a good amount to take into consideration.
“First of all, you want to make sure the plant is watered well,” he explained. “Sometimes you’re driving around with it in the back of the car, and it’s a hot day — you want to make sure it’s hydrated before you do anything.”
A great time to give thirsty plants a good drink is when unloading them from the car at home.
Before planting, also make sure to check the tag that came with the plant to determine whether it likes full sun, partial sun or full shade.
“At that point, find out how big the plant will be when it’s fully grown, so you’re not putting something that grows to be four feet tall in front of a plant that grows to be two feet tall,” he advised. Plants need room to grow, and gardeners need to be aware that the fully-grown plant will have very different dimensions than when first planted.
Those preparatory moments are a good time to also check colors. A plant with bright orange flowers, for instance, may not go well in a soft, pastel themed garden.
Aesthetics aside, the wrong location can kill a plant.
“Know your surroundings,” Kimber cautioned. “If you’re planting right next to your house, make sure it’s not right under a drip edge from your porch or roofline — that will beat the plant right to pieces.”
Once locations have been decided, it’s time to prepare the soil.
“If it’s in a 4-inch pot, make sure the hole is 6-inches deep so you have some loose soil for the roots to grow into,” Kimber explained. “Plant it at the same depth as it was growing in the pot, and that’s easily done with just a yard stick or a hoe handle or anything — just place it on top of the soil and make sure it’s even all the way across.”
Sometimes the roots can be all bunched up at the bottom of the plastic container, but Kimber said that’s OK.
“With a rose bush, they suggest you spread the roots out a little bit, but with most greenhouse-grown plants, you can just take it right out of the pot,” he said, pausing briefly with a look of concern.
“Be sure to take it out of the pot,” Kimber emphasized with a grin. He’s heard stories of some folks planting flowers in the ground, pots and all. While it’s true that some pots decompose, others do not, and a beginner gardener’s best bet is to remove the plant from the container.
If the soil is really, really dry, Kimber suggested digging the hole and filling it with water before depositing the flower in the ground. Allow time for the water to dissipate, and then backfill the hole a bit with some drier soil.
“Put your plant in it, fill in around the plant with dirt and gently press down on top of the plant, pushing it down to remove any air pockets — and then water again,” Kimber described.
“Outside, it’s hard to give them too much water — especially when you’re first transplanting,” he added.
A freshly planted garden is a good time to begin a feeding regimen, “either with a timed-release fertilizer where you can spread granules around the plant so that every time you water, it will self feed,” Kimber suggested, “or you can get on a schedule of once a week using liquid fertilizer with your water, such as Miracle Gro.”
How often you water is a bit trickier.
In the heat of a normal summer, Kimber suggested watering two to three times a week.
“But if we get a good, drenching rain, back off for two to three days,” he said. “It is common sense — if the soil feels real moist, then you probably don’t have to water. Most plants are fairly tolerant for a day or two. They’re real resilient, they’ll come back.”
There are some quirks, however, when it comes to how frequently gardens need water.
Plants on the south side of a building will need a lot more water than flowers on the north side because they get the sun all day long.
For the beginner gardener, Kimber said that most seedlings found at greenhouses and garden centers are beginner plants — and most annuals are too.
Plants for the intermediate gardener, such as begonias, are the types that require a bit more tender loving care.
“They are a little more fragile, and if the wind gets at them, they need to be staked and kept out of the heavy rain because it’ll just break them,” he said.
For the most advanced gardeners, a challenge can be had trying to grow a plant that doesn’t belong in this climate zone — such as maybe a peach tree.
Then there are the accidental advanced gardeners … who don’t realize they’re trying to grow plants in the wrong climate zone — hydrangeas, for instance.
“There are a lot of the plants you’ll see at the big box stores, and they just sell them because they sell everywhere else,” Kimber said, “but we’re in climate zone 3B or 4A. If the perennial says it is good for zone 3-4, than it probably will grow here. Anything in zone 5 or 6 will not grow here …. but you’ll find it at the stores.”
The couple’s greenhouse and Noyes Flower and Plant Shop are at 11 Franklin Street in Caribou. Additional information can be found online at noyesflowers.com, on Facebook, or by calling 498-2296.