Horticulture has to be my favorite aspect of landscape design. It’s really what first attracted me to the industry and continues to peak my curiosity and interest. No matter how much knowledge and experience you have, there’ always new plant advice to be had.
The fact that plants are living things, each with their own aesthetic characteristics and cultural requirements is really fascinating. Then, to have this endless palette of elements to design with…well, I understand how people can really get into it.
However, with this living selection of design elements comes the responsibility of choosing those that not just survive, but thrive in the area you intend to plant.
In simple terms “plants prefer particular environments” and these preferences can usually be traced to the plant’s origin. That is, where they first developed naturally. Choosing a plant that characteristically favors moist, fertile soil and planting it on a slope with poor soil and no irrigation – it will perish.
Before you buy and plant I have some recommendations. There are some nurseries and garden centers that have knowledgeable staff that can help with your selections. I say “some” because you should not assume everyone working at a nursery can give plant advice.
Therefore, to help identify accurate plant advice, I’d like to suggest 2 excellent reference books.
I carry these 2 in my truck and reference them regularly. I always recommend them to my clients because they’re informative, and chock full of pictures and examples. (If you’re like me you’ll only read books with pictures.)
So, for all the shrubs and trees you might be considering I’d recommend Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs and for the perennials The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato. Now, when you visit the nursery, you can look up the plant you’re considering and see what conditions it likes, how big it will get, etc. Also, you might end up teaching the garden center employee a thing or two.