Fleurs de Villes’s Tina Barkley shares her easy tips and tricks for harnessing our green thumbs.

The first week of spring is (finally!) upon us and we can’t wait to put our green thumbs back to work. We chatted with lifestyle expert and garden guru, Tina Barkley—whose Fleurs de Villes floral mannequin exhibit will be in Vancouver and Edmonton in April—to get the scoop on how we can make the most of our flower and vegetable crops this year.

1. Make a Plan

When it’s time to start planting, do it in phases: “Stagger when you plant your seeds so they’re at varying stages of growth. If you’re going to take the time and energy to foster and care for a vegetable garden, do it so you have veggies all summer long,” says Barkley.

2. Play with Height and Colour

Next time you’re out buying flowers, buy a couple of bunches either of the same colour or type. Play with height by cutting each bunch to a different length and displaying them in different containers or vases. “Just by nature a tight bunch of flowers looks curated. It’s magic because it makes it look like you know what you’re doing and it’s a creative way to present bouquets in different ways around the house,” she says. Trimmed cafe au lait dahlias in water. (Photo: Tina Barkley.)

3. Trim Your Stems

It seems simple, but Barkley says the most common mistake people make is putting flowers in a vase without re-trimming the stems. “It’s always a good idea,” she says. “Cut them at an angle—it will keep them fresh longer.” Pro tip: always cut roses under running water. (Photo: Tina Barkley.)

4. Get Creative

It’s decided: you can create your own garden regardless of where you live. “People are doing raised beds everywhere; they’re taking pallets and putting a backing on them, filling them up with dirt, and propping it against a wall,” says Barkley. “You don’t need a backyard to grow a vegetable garden anymore. My uncle grows lettuce in hanging baskets, one under another.” Dinner plate dahlias. (Photo: Tina Barkley.)

5. Start Small

“My favourite flower to grow in my garden are dahlias because they’re so simple and fruitful. You plant your tubers in April and often they come back year after year depending on where you live. They have these giant, friendly, vivacious blossoms that are so much fun and so satisfying to grow (the more you cut them the more they bloom)—and they’re available in so many different colours. Even if you’re not a super knowledgeable gardener, dahlias are a great place to start. By early July you’ll have these beautiful monstrosities that will make you happy, guaranteed,” says Barkley.

6. Colour Coordinate

“I like having a colour scheme in my home, so whatever I do in the dining room, I’ll also do in the kitchen to carry the colour from room to room. It might be that in the kitchen I’ll put out yellow dish towels, but in the den and the living room I’ve got yellow flowers. I make flowers a part of my decor.” (Photo: Chris Buckridge, Flickr.)

7. Follow Trends

Why reinvent the wheel when there are people all around you with great ideas? Incorporate these ideas into your own home and garden, and throw in a personal twist. “There’s an incredible grower in Washington, Florets Flowers, who is so big on social media. She grows dahlias like there’s no tomorrow! I think she’s why they’re so popular,” says Barkley. “Black flowers have been trending recently, too—anything that is so deep purple it’s almost back whether it’s in cosmos, in dahlias or callas.”

Fleur de Villes

BurnabyApril 5 to 9Metropolis at Metrotown#604–4700 KingswayEdmontonApril 19 to 23Southgate Shopping Centre5015 111 St. NW