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Mr. Martin also points to other drawbacks associated with heirloom or older plant varieties, including disease, lack of drought resistance and a tendency to droop after just a few days.

“A lot of people now are asking for the wave petunia,” he said. “It’s got a cascading head and is drought-resistant.”

Today’s gardeners, particularly those in the Greater Washington area, want blooms all season long, with plants that look heathy and maintain their form even after the season has passed. Commercially cultivated species such as native mallow have been redefined to work in a modern garden.

“People come in and want it all done in one weekend,” Mr. Martin said. “Gone are the days when people went to nurseries every weekend. People are buying based on what they are seeing blooming at the time.”

And they are not as interested in indigenous species as some would have you think.

“Talk about native plants is a relative term,” Mr. Martin said. “A lot of people consider them weeds. They want a better variety in terms of look.”

There are drawbacks associated with some of the newer varieties, though. The popular wave petunias, for example, have a limited color range and no scent. And if you try to save their seeds, you’re likely to end up with something that doesn’t even remotely resemble what you thought you planted.

Still, there are ways to enjoy the aesthetic of an old-fashioned garden with some of the comforts associated with a modern one.

  • Consider the soil. Few flowers can bloom in poor soil, so you’ll need to work in compost and mulch around plants to help preserve moisture and deter weeds.
  • Know where the sun will shine - and where it won’t. Ms Jentz noted that many new gardeners don’t realize how much sun their garden actually gets because they are away at work for much of the day. Keep in mind that many annuals require full sun, although some, including snapdragons, can grow in partial shade.
  • Use new varieties of old plants. There’s nothing more old-fashioned than, say, a blue hydrangea, but your grandmother’s plants probably were quick to fade and hard to maintain. Now, hydrangeas are hardier and don’t demand much work, which is why you’ll see them on practically every corner this time of year.
  • Layer your plants. Vary bloom time to ensure that your garden will be blooming all season long.
  • Pay attention to texture, color and shape. Your grandmother’s grandmother crowded colors and played around with texture, even if the color palette was the same.
  • Don’t make everything the same height. The rhythm of an old-fashioned garden had much to do with the juxtaposition of taller plants with medium-size varieties and ground cover.
  • Pay attention to the border. Grandmother’s garden often was bounded by a box hedge, an edging of marigolds or even a white picket fence. (There’s nothing that says “old-fashioned” quite like a white picket fence, complete with peonies peaking through the slats.)
  • Don’t forget the structures. Along with fencing, arbors, trellises, water features and even statuary might be found in your grandmother’s garden.