Choosing plants for your garden may seem a daunting task but all you need to do is follow a few pointers and you will have a lovely garden filled with shrubs, trees, flowers or bulbs. Whatever you prefer. Climate, growing conditions of each plant, aspect of your garden and soil type all need to be taken into consideration. Then do you want trees, shrubs, flowers, evergreen plants or deciduous plants, high maintenance, low maintenance it is all up to you.
The best gardens will have a good mixture of plants to provide a good showing in all four seasons of the year. A good place to start is to look and see what plants do well in your neighbourhood. If lots of gardens have roses then it is a good climate for them. If you have a favourite plant but you don’t see it in gardens around town there is a good chance it doesn’t do well in your area. The right plant in the right spot will reward you for years to come.
The first thing you need to do if you don’t already know is to find out what climate zone you live in. This is important as not all plants will grow in each zone. For example if you live in a tropical area you won’t want to plant deciduous trees and shrubs that do best in cool temperate zones.
Once you have ascertained the climate zone you live in you can now decide on a color scheme for your garden and choose the appropriate plants.
This is not as critical as it sounds as soil type can be influenced by how you treat it. For example a heavy clay soil will need broken up by adding gypsum and organic matter. A sandy soil will need organic matter added as well as controlled fertilisers. Dry sandy soils benefit from betonies clay that will help hold moisture in the soil.
The pH of your soil is more important as some plants love the alkaline soil and others prefer acidic soils. A pH testing kit is not expensive and will give you a starting point for your soil type. Additions to your soil can make your soil more or less acidic or more or less acid.
Sun or shade
There are plants that love being planted in full sun and others that like dappled shade and still more that like deep shade with just a small amount of sunlight. Spend a few days watching how the sun and shade change places as the day extends to evening. This will give you a good idea of what plants to put where.
You are able to make shade in your garden by planting trees and large shrubs that will protect shade loving plants from the harsh sun.
Once you have the above all sorted out, you can start designing where the garden beds will go, what plants you need to buy and the variety of sun-loving and shade loving. There is lots of free help available from plant nurseries in your area, and they can recommend plants that do well in the area.
Think about how much work you want to do in the garden. A garden full of annuals needs replanting up to twice a year for year-round color. A large planting of perennials means that all you need to do is cut back and fertilize each spring and then divide when they get too big.
A mixture of annuals and perennial shrubs is a good combination as you can add for spots of color before the perennials flower. Bulbs are a good choice to plant under annuals as they will be up and flowering before the annuals get to full size and produce their colorful display.
Choose one or two plants that have eye appeal and will draw your eye. A beautiful maple that colors in fall or a flowering magnolia in spring. These add interest to your garden as well as lovely color and structure throughout the year. A smallish specimen tree in the lawn is a good place for a focal point. It can’t get lost in amongst the garden.
Think about how the garden changes with the seasons. Add some deciduous trees for fall color, bulbs for spring color, and perennials for summer flowers and trees for shades.
Avoid planting just one of a plant. A group of 3 or 5 adds a lot more interest and will provide a larger area of color or impact than a single plant.
If you don’t have a fountain in the garden place a large pot as a point of interest. It can have annuals and bulbs in it or a slow growing plant that will be happy in the pot for a few years.
This is whether a plant can survive in tougher conditions like wind, salt exposure, and frost. The more hardy a plant is, the more likely it is to survive a harsh condition. Always check the label as it will list how hardy a plant is and whether or not it will survive frosts or salt-laden winds.
Think about how much watering you are going to need to do. A hardy plant will survive drought if it has been looked after when first planted.
You want plants of different leaf shapes and color, different heights and different flowering times to add interest to your garden. There are a lot of low maintenance plants that only need a light prune or tidy up every few years. You can just use a single flower for added impact or use 3 or more for a more colorful and happy display all year round.
While waiting for perennials or larger shrubs to fill in your garden bed add some fun color with annuals. There are so many to choose from and a lot will self seed for you next year. If they end up in a spot where you don’t want them, transplant or pull out.
Evergreen trees and shrubs can create a green backdrop for your more colorful and interesting plants. Once established they should be able to survive on rain except in the driest circumstances.