Tuesday 23 January 2018

Plant selection should be fun

A host of golden daffodils
A host of golden daffodils

Andrew Collyer - Practical Gardening

Over the last couple of weeks I have had cause to visit a number of nurseries and garden centres, both trade and retail, collecting plants for planting works I have to carry out for clients.

On these visits I always have my pre-selected list of plants in hand, I'm a great believer in forward planning regarding planting, and for all garden works in fact, be it for one plant or a whole garden full. This is not to say that if a wonderful plant not on my list presents itself while on my travels I won't select it as a suitable substitute for a listed plant. You never know what treasures may unearth themselves.

Some plants substitutions may occur at the designers discretion' at the bottom of my planting plans to cover this and choice changes are always made for an improvement. It is of course a huge temptation to enter a garden centre with eyes like saucers marvelling at the delicious delicacies on offer and with 'a child in a sweet shop' mentality of I want the lot. I am as guilty as the next person in this regard when dealing with my own garden where my soft spot for unusual tree species is a constant downfall from one who should know better. However when you plan your plant buying the process should be fun and exciting , if its not don't waste your time just go straight to your garden centre and take their advice.

This is a very good time to start thinking about any permanent planting you are hoping to carry out this year. Come mid April it is ideal if you are ready to plant and get the benefit of the whole growing season. This is not at the expense of trying to work the soil when it is wet and unsuitable, better to bide your time and await a dry spell.

Your first course of action is to create a hit list of what you would really love to have in your garden, don't worry about suitability at this stage. Take a visit to your garden centres and look at what is on offer and don't just focus on those plants that are standing out at the present. Roll up the shirt sleeves and get in amongst the apparently boring March plants to find out that they may well be summer gems. Don't be afraid to ask staff questions. Take down names and go home and do some homework. And don't be restricted to what you find in the garden centre in March look in greater depth using the wonderful tool that is the internet. Most garden centres will order in plant requests as long as they are available and reasonable.

The first consideration after this is where the planting is to take place. Sunny, shaded, a bit of both, exposed or sheltered. Also consider the soil conditions, wet, dry, poor soil or good. Make a note of these conditions and of the number of plants you intend to plant in each area. Consider now heights and sizes, tall varieties at the back with something lower in front. Also at this point evergreen foliage versus deciduous foliage.

You should now have something written down like, 3 plants for shaded area; sheltered; soil good but improve; 1 tall plant to 6 feet evergreen; 2 low plants to 2 feet either evergreen or deciduous. Also 1 plant for dry area: poor soil: low growing; evergreen.

With this information you can now start looking at suitable plants you have on your want list. Bear in mind that this is only a guide for you, if you find the right plant for an area but because of its growing size the ' 2 low plants for shade' needs only to be one low plant for shade that is perfectly fine. Also if you find a suitable plant that you love but it is deciduous where you had hoped for evergreen ask yourself how much that matters or just keep looking there may be something else to fit the bill out there.

Flowering times and colours are of course a consideration and can be a lot more personalised and subjective. Choose colours and flowering times that you like and suit the way you use your garden. If you consider that many plants will out live their planters it's worth the effort to get is right and be satisfied, every plant in your garden should be worthy of its space.


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