Dear Master Gardener: I love to have beautiful flowers to cut, take to friends, church, or just put on the table in my house. However, when I look at the catalogs or go to the stores, I just can’t afford to buy these plants, much less pay the shipping charges. Do I have to forsake having a beautiful garden because I can’t afford plants?

Dear dreaming of a beautiful garden: Thanks for an easy question. I love it when I know the answer right off the top of my head: seeds, seeds and more seeds.

Now is the time to plant seeds. Flowers and vegetable seeds are now readily available in your garden centers.

Prepare your bed by working up the soil. You know by now it is best to soil sample before planting. Rake the area, sow your seed and lightly cover the seeds with soil. This isn’t in the book, but I walk around on mine just to make sure they are solidly in the ground.

Water lightly for a few days and watch the magic happen. Just when you least expect it, little plants will pop up. You can gently move a few around if they are too close together.

Once they have taken root, feed them with a balanced fertilizer.

I like to pinch my marigolds as soon as they have a little bud. This makes them form compact little bushes of flowers.

Cut your flowers and keep feeding them throughout the season. This will help them produce flowers all summer.

In the fall when they die, collect the seeds and put them in an envelope. Then put them in the refrigerator and next spring you won’t even need to purchase seeds.

Unfortunately, annuals only bloom for one season. The wonderful aspect is that they bloom constantly throughout that season. Perennials come back every year but usually only bloom for a short span of time. Try some of both for that beautiful garden you are seeking.

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Dear Master Gardener: In your last column, you said that irises did not grow in the shade. I have some iris in the shade and they are doing well. I also have some lilacs that are living in my yard. What do you think?

Dear Thomas: I agree with you because there is an exception to every rule.

I have beautiful rhododendrons growing as I write this column. They are not supposed to grow well in the midlands of South Carolina, but they are thriving in my yard.

About 30 years ago, I brought home a package of sequoia seed from California, with the intention of trying to grow a sequoia tree. Who knows -- if I had taken them out of the package 30 years ago, I might have a big tree! I think I still have that little package somewhere.

In all seriousness, the advice I pass along to you, my readers, is the optimum scenario. I get my information from many sources, but they must all pass the Clemson website’s criteria.

Let’s all be eternal optimists and plant a sequoia tree in the midlands of South Carolina just to see what happens.

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