Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Three Steps in Planning A Garden–Part 3

Choosing the Plants

I've used this slide before, and will again now.  Choosing plants for your new garden space, is going to take some information from the plant to the gardener. 
The label gives the gardener all the information needed to take this plant home, and successfully adopt its new location.
The name of the plant, of course, is given -  both the common names, and the botanical name.  The grower has given the gardener a description of the plant. The colors of the foliage and blossoms are listed in case the plant is not blooming at the time of purchase.
The mature size in height and width are important so the plant is spaced properly.  Too close of placement, and the constant pruning will be tedious.  If the plant is too small at maturity, it will look awkward and get lost in the landscape. 
too close

The soil is probably the most important consideration to choosing a plant for the garden.  In Step 2, the site was diagnosed.  The moisture, or dryness has been determined. Some plants will thrive with wet soil, some will drown.
Clethera, and astilbe need moist soil.  images (1)
Areas beneath a large tree canopy will be dry.  This big root geranium never disappoints me. 100_0434

The sunniness or shadiness of the location has been observed.  ‘Part shade’ preference for the azalea means it will do best in less than a ‘full sun’ location.  Full sun is six hours or more per day.  Part shade is considered to be when the sun is available less than 4 hours per day.
100_0482 This climbing hydrangea does well in this shady part of my garden.
Know the pH of the soil. The soil test will determine of the soil is acid or alkaline. This distinction is important.
soil testerSoil tester from Amazon
Steps to take a soil test. (In case this step was skipped!)
1)Take a small spoon size scoop of soil from six or eight different spots in the area to be planted.   2)  Combine in a clean container.  3)  Following the instructions of the soil tester, take a reading. 
Soil with a reading below 7 is considered acid.  Seven is neutral.   Numbers above 7 are alkaline. 
The plant tag above states that the azalea needs acidic soil.  If the soil test indicates the soil is alkaline, this azalea will struggle and will not thrive. 
Vegetable gardens will need an acid site, as do most fruits.  Blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries all need pH reading at or below 6.5. 
The Zone limits for plants being considering for the garden is vital for survival of the plant.  When a zone is stated, that is the coldest climate in which the plant will survive. If  the garden zone is 6, plants that are hardy to zone 7 will probably freeze. 

I’ve posted these two evergreens – both are junipers, but as shown, they are certainly different.  This distinction is important for when a low grower is called for in the landscape, the garden will have a completely different look if the tall juniper is installed. Read the label or plant description to avoid this problem.
Choosing the right plant, and putting it in the right place will be the difference in a successful garden or a garden that disappoints.
The choices of plants is so personal.   Many varieties of plants are available and make each gardener’s space unique.
Trees or shrubs are available.  Large trees, or understory trees are both options. Understory trees are usually found under the canopy of larger trees in the forest, and their mature height is shorter – some about 15 – 20 feet tall.
Flowering trees or flowering shrubs can be beautiful. 

Leaf shapes and colors are endless.  This is the leaf of the ginko tree, which also has great fall color.

ginko4ginko fall color

The yellow blooms of the golden rain tree is an unexpected splash of color in summer.

golden raintree blossoms

Evergreen plants are, in my opinion, the backbone of the landscape.  The seasons come and go, but the evergreen plant holds up even in the cold of winter.
snow in evergreen

Perennials get a lot of attention by gardeners.  They grow and bloom in their time, and go dormant in winter, and grow again, season after season.  What more could a gardener ask for?  Choosing perennials for the new garden space is fun and the combinations are endless.  Most perennials bloom once during the season, and then they are sitting looking forward to next year.  So consider foliage shapes, and colors, as these will be the feature most of the time.  summer_cottage_garden_poster-p228211013233918314tdcp_400
Finally, seasonal color is easy to achieve by planting annuals each year. Again, choose plants for the sun or   shade. Consider plants that do well in wet or dry situations. 
annualscoleous foliage color
Calabrachoa, coleus, and impatiens pictured here are full of color and last all summer.

1) Envision the Space, 2) Prepare the Space, and 3) Choosing the Plants - Taking these three steps when planning a new garden space, will have the project proceed without major missteps.  Relax and enjoy the new space.
In upcoming posts, I plan to give more details on picking the right plant for the right place. I’ll discuss features of plants and where they would like to be in the garden.
Thanks for stopping by today.  I hope you enjoy your gardening experience. 

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