Choosing Plants for Your Landscape: Follow Nature’s Lead
Gardening Is a Labor of Love
Gardening is a labor of love. It’s an extension of our dreams and who we are. Our landscapes reflect our personalities, philosophies on life, and are a tribute to Mother Nature.
Our landscapes are a haven for birds and butterflies. They are an artist’s canvas providing serenity, beauty, and sustenance. Our landscapes are the result of vision and purpose; a means of creating our private world where there’s no place like home.
Gardening, as in many aspects of life, is an exercise in trial and error. What doesn’t work here might do better over there. Mother Nature’s pretty forgiving as long as we don’t neglect or abuse her.
That being said, recent changes in weather patterns and the increased intensity of the sun due to the hole in our ozone layer, can prove to result in more error than trial when it comes to our landscaping efforts.
There are a couple of things you can do to minimize error in the trial and error equation:
Know Your Zone
Several plant hardiness zones have been added over the last few years to accommodate the climate changes we are seeing. Before beginning any landscape project, it is vital to know your zone, especially if you buy bulbs, plants, seeds, or seedlings through mail order. What works in the state in which the plant material is grown may not do well in your location.
Below is a map of the U.S. Plant Hardiness Zones.
If you happen to be reading this from outside the United States, this link will help you determine your plant hardiness zone. You can also locate your zone according to U.S. zip code by following the same link.
Knowing Your Zone Is Only Part of the Puzzle
You’re not there yet, folks! Knowing your zone isn’t all it takes to have a successful garden or landscape.
For instance, let’s say you have an area that receives full sun. You go to the garden center or your local nursery and pick up several varieties touted for use in full-sun environments. Knowing that most plants will go through shock when first relocated from the pot to the bed you expect some wilting for the first day or two. However, after a week your plants are looking pretty sad. You try to compensate by watering your new plants whenever they look puny.
Recognize the plants’ appearance as not a plea for water, but a plea for relief from the heat. Don’t mistake ‘full sun’ for ‘heat tolerant’. Trust me on this. Living in Florida, I learned the hard way. There is a difference. Likewise, look for plants that are drought tolerant. This will conserve water and save money on your water bill as well.
In addition to knowing your zone and choosing plants that can tolerate extreme temperatures, there’s a fool-proof measure to take when planning your landscape.
Let Mother Nature Be Your Landscape Architect
The easiest way to ensure a successful landscape is to look around you. What is native to your area? Visit your local environmental center or take a walk in the woods near your home. What do you see? These areas are irrigated by rainfall – not systems that deplete our aquifers. What types of plants, shrubs, trees, and flowers grow naturally in your area? Grab your camera, notebook, and pen and take a hike!
Nature Walk With My Son
As you see, my son and I went on a nature walk, which is what inspired this article. What I found interesting is some of the plants and trees we saw on our walk also live in our backyard. Mother Nature knows best!
Now that you’ve discovered what is indigenous to your area and made note of the flora and fauna that interest you, take that information to your local nursery. Make sure you have sufficient room in the intended area to accommodate the growth patterns of the plants you choose. Also pay attention to the light levels when designing your landscape. The walk you just took should help you with that aspect, especially if you took photos. What time of day was it? How was the sun filtering? Which plants grow in shade? Which thrive in direct sunlight, etc.?
Okay, I hear several of you saying you can’t afford to go to the garden center; it’s simply not in the budget. Yet, you want a pretty yard, right?
Never fear – the queen of making things happen is here!
Several years ago I gave up using my Home Depot card for anything but emergency purchases (such as leaky toilets), but I still wanted to update my landscape and keep it from looking barren.
What was the solution?
I killed two birds with one stone.
I went for a walk.
The next day I went for a walk again only this time I brought a hand shovel and a bag. You see, when I took that morning walk I noticed all the pretty and interesting plants growing wild in the easements of my neighborhood.
Bingo! I’d hit pay dirt. (No pun intended, but now that I think about it…)
I dug up a few plants and put them in my garden. Not only did I spend no money, but I knew the plants would do well because they were already thriving with absolutely no human attention.
Check it out. Here’s what I’m talking about:
Choose Native Plants for Your Landscape
One thing I didn’t mention in the video is I no longer buy mulch. I have so many trees that shed their leaves, I use them as mulch and also add them to my compost bin. I’ll use the two season’s worth of leaves that have built up on one side of my house as filler for the hugelkultur bed when I build it.
So, as you see, Mother Nature really is the best landscape architect you could ever have the privilege of working with. Work with her and she’ll work with you.
I hope you’ve gotten something out of this post. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to landscape your yard, nor do you have to experience failure.
Let Mother Nature lead the way.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Shauna L Bowling