The Right Plant in the Right Place

    When selecting plants for a garden space, the conditions of the garden have priority over any other consideration. Though this may sound backwards in a culture based around “I want what I want when I want it”, it makes perfect sense when put in context. An extreme and perhaps obvious example:  I may want an orange grove, but if I live in New York City, unless I have the space and am willing to employ the tactics of Louis the Fourteenth, bringing the trees into an arboretum every winter, I just don’t have the weather conditions to make that happen. Therefore, most garden design will be predicated on existing conditions and whatever we can do to influence the so that the plants we select will thrive. If we want a chemical free garden, and save the expense of constantly replacing fading plant material, the plants must thrive.

   The basic conditions to be monitored to sustain plant material are water, soil, light and air. The two elements we have the most influence over are soil and water. Light and air not so much, though global warming may be evidence to the contrary on a wide scale. The primary test of any landscape designer, landscape architect or landscape maintenance company is whether they bother to soil test. Any designer who does not consider existing soil conditions and moisture is not worth their salt. For that matter any lawn care, or landscape maintenance company that does not soil test at least once a year should be replaced immediately. Amending soil without testing is like a nutritionist recommending a diet without exploring what a person eats and what their physical condition is.

  Once you have an assessment of soil and moisture conditions, you have the basis for plant consideration. The next priority is what do you want? Presumably, anyone reading this text will have environmental considerations near the top of the list. Minimal, water efficient plants or even xeriscaping may be next, and certainly the inclusion of native plants if not a completely designing with natives will be high on the list, as local ecosystems have been built on and are sustained by, the presence of native plants.

  If you must have a lawn, try to keep it simple and restricted to where it actually will be used by children and visitors. Large areas that had been dedicated to lawns in the past are better served by native wildflower collections from an aesthetic and environmental stance. The sheer energy it takes to care for lawns make them undesirable from an environmental stance

  The look of the garden to some extent will be determined by the architecture of the home, and whether the home is in an urban, suburban, or country setting-the surroundings will determine what kind of transitions the garden space will need to make to “belong” or look like it fits in. Again, there may be limits to what you can have versus what you want. If you live in a cold climate and want a tropical look, you will be working hard (like Louis the Fourteenth and his ilk) to get it, and the energy and effort the garden will need to be sustained.

  Soil can and should be amended organically to help sustain the plants, and irrigation and drainage adjusted to this end as well. Water can and should be recycled from rooftops, impermeable surfaces, and grey water either into the garden, back into the home, or both as water is and will be a more precious commodity.




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