Many factors come into play when choosing plants for a garden. Planting may be the answer to a specific landscaping need, such as screening an unsightly view, filling a shady corner, or preventing erosion on a slope, or you may plant simply for the sensory pleasures a garden provides.
The choice of garden plants will depend on the garden’s size, climate, and specific characteristics. Each plant must be suitable for the garden’s conditions, whether sunny or shady and damp or dry, and soil type. Plants also must satisfy personal taste. Here are some tips for choosing the right plants to enhance any garden space.
1. Start with a plan.
The first step in planning a garden is to put pencil to paper. Draw an outline of the area to be planted, drawing it to scale. Add any landscape features, such as walls or fences, and any existing plantings or trees.
Mark the position of the existing plants and use a circle to show the amount of spread, allowing for future spread. Designating the spread of an existing tree’s canopy tells you how much sun the garden will receive. This is important because plants vary greatly in the amount of sun or shade they can tolerate. Also note any variations in soil conditions, like a boggy area, which you will need to know in selecting plants based on moisture tolerance.
As you identify the plants you would like to add, mark them on the outline, again showing planting position and spread. Start with the largest plantings first, and work down in scale from trees to shrubs to ground cover and perennials to annuals and bulbs. Use a garden catalog for information about height, spread, and planting distances as well as sun and moisture tolerance. This plan will help you decide how many plants can be added to the space without overcrowding, and will become a guide when shopping for your garden plants.
2. Consider the plant’s function.
Plants can serve many functions in a garden. They can act as a canopy to provide shade, a screen for privacy, or a divider to mark a space. Plants also can function as carpets, accents, or fillers. Determine the functions to be served within your garden plan and select plant varieties that will achieve those purposes.
3. Vary plants for visual interest.
A plant’s shape, texture, and color play a critical role in any garden design. While the color of a plant’s flower may be its most obvious feature, remember that a flower often is a fleeting thing in a garden. Thus, consider the color and texture of the leaves as well as the blooms. By using plants with different shapes, textures, and colors, you will add visual interest and definition to the landscape.
4. Choose plants for year-round interest.
For year-round interest in the garden, choose plants that bloom in different seasons. For winter interest, include some evergreen plants, deciduous trees with strong silhouettes or peeling bark, or ornamental grasses that give structure to the garden.
5. Choose plants that suit your lifestyle.
Finally, the plants you choose must suit your lifestyle. If you don’t have a lot of time to spend in the garden, choose low maintenance varieties. If you have children or pets, choose plants that are not poisonous if ingested.