Now, before you hop in the car and head off to the nurseries with your shopping list, I need to offer a last minute check of the plant list. Do you have enough large-leaf plants incorporated into our plant combinations? I bring this up for good reason. If you flip through certain gardening publications, not to be named here, we will find that although the pictures are very colorful, the gardens look messy. Gardens comprised of numerous small-leafed plants look messy, even with lots of color contrast between neighboring masses. Using your mind’s eye, make sure you have enough large-leafed plants in your design.
Before venturing off, you may be able to view your nursery’s inventory online or elect to call them before you head out. Researching availability at home will save you valuable time running around town gathering exactly the right plants for your new landscape.
Last reminder before you go... now that you’ve done your homework, developed a plan and know how big your plants will become at maturity, stick to the plan and don’t buy more because the garden needs to look full Day 1.
The landscape should age well with time like fine wine. The least attractive day in the life of a landscape should be the day it’s first planted, when you have accounted for future growth and the eventual mature height and width of plants. I've had customers and inexperienced landscapers actually reset my placement of buckets, because the spacing of plants seemed off and they thought I had made a mistake. It may look right then and through the first year, but the true test of a well-designed landscape is what it looks like in 5 to ten years, neat and balanced. Overplanting will no doubt lead to a messy landscape, so develop a long-term approach to the project to help you install the correct number of plants, save time and money, and ensure a lovely mature yard. Trust me, the end result will be worth the wait.
After you’ve arrived at the nursery, had some time to look around and discovered the nursery doesn’t have everything you’re looking for, don’t allow the salesperson sell you on a plant substitute you know nothing about. Plants within a genus species can appear very similar in a 3-gallon bucket, but what they look like in 5 to 10 years can be vastly different.
Take a look at some examples and notice the mature heights listed in the caption…
For those new to gardening… plants are organized by genus, species, and sometimes cultivar names, such as Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’. The first word (Hydrangea) always begins with a capital letter and is known as the genus. The second word (quercifolia) is written in all lower case letters and is the species within the genus (Hydrangea). The third name, highlighted with single quotes and first letter in caps, is the cultivar (‘Snow Queen’) within the genus species (Hydrangea quercifolia). The cultivar name is very important, because it names a specific and unique plant within a genus species. By itself, a genus species name can refer to a specific plant or, if not properly labeled, to a whole bunch of cultivars with different growth habits and mature sizes. Make sure you know what you're buying.
If you do decide to substitute plants at the nursery (after quickly confirming plant info on your mobile device), there’s one last consideration. You need to think about how the new plant will impact the immediate area as well as the overall design of your new landscape. One change can have a rippling effect, which can leave you scratching your head and vulnerable to quick decisions and costly mistakes. Stick to your plan and the overall goals of the project. Don’t be swayed by slick advertising.
Consider driving a longer distance to a larger well-stocked nursery or shopping online to get exactly what you’re looking for. Landscaping is expensive, labor intensive, and permanent given the mature size of certain trees and shrubs. It also takes years to assess the design, so plan accordingly and take the time to locate exactly what you want.
Next time, we’ll talk about planting. The best time to plant is fall, but my second favorite season for landscaping is winter. The plants are dormant, and they transition remarkably well during this time as long as the ground can be worked. Plants are generally better off planted in the ground in your yard than above ground in buckets at the nursery.
You can also get great deals from hardscaping and irrigation crews during the slower winter season. You may even consider mulching, which becomes one less thing to take care of (or wait for) leading up to that spring graduation party or Mother’s Day gathering. Take a few minutes to mark up a calendar with reminders to avoid a spring rush, and while you’re at it, schedule the winterization of your irrigation system. Frozen, busted backflow preventers are expensive to replace. Have a good week.
Welcome to my journal. For over 20 years I've created original landscape plans to help homeowners increase property value and really enjoy their yards. I approach every project as an unique opportunity to develop a work of living art, one that will require minimal care and age beautifully with time. In this journal, I will share some of my field experiences and tricks of the trade with you. Please join the conversation and thanks for visiting.