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Choosing Plants for Your Landscape: Follow Nature’s Lead

Shauna has a deep appreciation for Mother Nature's landscape and endeavors to follow Nature's lead when creating beauty in her yard.

Ti plants in my backyard

Ti plants in my backyard

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.

U.S. Plant Hardiness Zones Map

U.S. Plant Hardiness Zones Map

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?

Spiderwort transplanted from side of the road to my garden

Spiderwort transplanted from side of the road to my garden

Dual Purpose

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.

Has This Article Inspired You?

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

Comments

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on June 10, 2020:

Sankhajit, I'm not sure gardens can control air pollution, but they certainly benefit the earth, animals and humans. We have gardens all around our property. Some are ornamental and some are edible. All of them are beautiful.

Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment, Sankhajit!

Sankhajit Bhattacharjee from MILWAUKEE on June 10, 2020:

I like your post on gardening. Every house must have a garden in front to control air pollution.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on May 15, 2020:

Flourish, as long as he's not digging plants up from people's yards or public gardens, what's the harm? Plants and flowers that grow wild re-seed and with the help of wind, birds, etc. continue to spread their beauty. I don't see anything wrong with sampling from easements, meadows, wooded areas, etc.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 14, 2020:

My dad digs up and transplants certain plants (mainly daffodils) from other areas and we have shamed him. Maybe we can stop that now and tell him you said it was actually okay.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on April 18, 2020:

Audrey, gardening truly is therapy for the soul. Your garden sounds delicious. You can make a salad with everything you're growing, including the strawberries. They add a nice balance to greens and veggies. Of course, they're yummy on their own, too!

Thanks for joining me and Christopher on our walk. It was a pleasure to have you!

Stay well, my friend.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on April 17, 2020:

Fantastic article, Sha! Gardening always lifts my spirit and somehow just makes me feel good. With our lives turned upside down at this time, planting is the perfect antidote. I started my tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, and onions today. Much more to go and I look forward to getting my hands dirty.

Strawberries do well in my area. For the past 2 years, they've lived through heat, rain and tons of snow and continue to produce sweet, delicious berries.

Thanks for the lovely video. I enjoyed the walk with you and your son. Stay healthy and well, dear friend.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on April 15, 2020:

Thank you, bhattuc. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

bhattuc on April 15, 2020:

Beautiful article on gardening.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on April 01, 2020:

Rochelle, plants add beauty and oxygen to our world. It's nice that you help your mom tend to her gardens. Maybe one day you'll get the urge to cultivate your green thumb. Everyone has one, but not all know it!

Thanks for your well-wishes. Same to you.

Rochelle Ann De Zoysa from Moratuwa, Sri Lanka on April 01, 2020:

Interesting article, I'm not that into gardening but my mom is. She too keep bringing plants and most of the garden and balcony filled with different plants. I do water them. It is refreshing. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Stay safe and healthy :)

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on April 01, 2020:

Mar, with so many people having to stay at home and spring in the air, now is the perfect time to get out and putter in the yard.

I'm sure Andy and Miss Fannie are welcome assistants and love having you home!

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on March 31, 2020:

Dear Sha,

It's refreshing to read this beautiful and well-developed post on landscaping and gardening at this stressful time.

I am taking as many breaks as possible weeding our garden, with Andy and Miss Fannie as my faithful assistants (well sorta, when they're not playing ball). Spring has never been more welcome.

Be well and healthy. Love you, mar

Ann Carr from SW England on March 31, 2020:

You're very welcome, Shauna!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 31, 2020:

Cool. I'm going to go snooping in your yard, Ann!

Ann Carr from SW England on March 31, 2020:

I did one about using plants to tell your life story - plants given to me, planted to remind me of friends etc. It's called 'Your Life Story in Your Garden...'

My garden has changed a little since but remains mostly the same.

I have a triangular shaped plot, so there are three areas of garden - back, side and front!

Ann

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 31, 2020:

Ann, I'd love to see what you have growing on your property. Have you written any gardening articles? If not, will you consider doing so?

Thanks for the great comment!

Ann Carr from SW England on March 31, 2020:

Great article, Shauna! I didn't discover zones until I looked up which fruit trees might do best in my garden. It was a useful exercise.

We are near the sea and the prevailing wind is from the southwest. We are therefore prone to howling gales straight off the sea and up the side of the house. I don't plant anything but totally hardy plants there. However, behind the shed is a little shelter and that's where my plum tree is now thriving. The rest of the garden contains my favourites and many that grow well in this vicinity.

Your garden looks lovely too, with such vibrant colours.

Thanks for the good advice and for sharing your knowledge and expert planting.

Ann

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 31, 2020:

Dora, that's wonderful that your neighbors share. I have a neighbor who has offered anything in her gardens to me as well. Some of her beautiful flowers will blow their seeds into my grass. Once the flower comes up I pluck it up and give it a more appropriate home.

Enjoy creating your garden, Dora!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 30, 2020:

Sure, your article inspired me. I'm in the process of preparing the space for new plants. All of them will come from neighbors who will share from their gardens. Your article boosts my determination to get it done.Thanks!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 30, 2020:

I just Googled it. They get pretty tall!

Kyler J Falk from California on March 30, 2020:

Echinopsis Pachinoi is a succulent, it is better known as San Pedro cactus. As for what it looks like, any other tall stalk cactus and you have to really know your succulents to discern what is San Pedro and what is not.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 30, 2020:

Linda, you're so right about the critters dining on our efforts. We have a tomato plant in the back yard that has well over 20 tomatoes in various stages of growth. My son picks them when they're green and lets them ripen on the kitchen window sill so we can enjoy them before the squirrels do!

You're welcome to join us on a nature walk any time, Sis!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 30, 2020:

Ruby, thanks for coming on the walk with us. My son and I are going to plant a magnolia tree in our front yard once the city completes converting us from septic to sewer. We live on E Magnolia Avenue and there's not a single magnolia on our street! We aim to correct that.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on March 30, 2020:

Informative, inspirational, and restorative. The sunshine and warmth on those nature walks sure felt good.

Your garden supports things I can only dream of; our climates could not be more different, so any time you want to share photos of your pretties I'm eager to see them.

By the way there's one more consideration on choosing plants for your garden (at least for me). Native critters can turn your efforts into a salad bar.

Thanks sis for an uplifting article. We need more happiness.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 30, 2020:

I went on the walk with you and your son and enjoyed it much. You have a lot of usable info. here. I love this time of year. I have two Magnolia trees in bloom plus many flowers, all my rose bushes are leafing out. I have one bush that is beautiful, it has pink flowers. I didn't plant anything here, so I do not know what some are. I know it's a lot of work. It is nice to read a hub about nature instead of the C virus. Take care my friend.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 30, 2020:

Ha ha, Kyler. You're too punny ! Tee hee. I'm not familiar with echinopsis pachanol. Does it have a common name I might recognize? What does it look like?

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 30, 2020:

Bill, I feel validated! You take care, my friend and stay well. I'll be thinking of you, Maggie and Toby when I do take my next walk.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 30, 2020:

manatita, I'm usually surprised by voices, too. I think we imagine what the person would sound like and are often surprised when our imaginations are off the mark.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 30, 2020:

Glad I can be of help, Caprise. One good thing about having your flowers in containers is you can move them around until they find their happy place without putting them into shock by transplanting over and over again.

Kyler J Falk from California on March 30, 2020:

We have been wanting to grow echinopsis pachanoi for so long, but we just haven't gotten around to digging up the front yard and putting it in. Instead we have multiple rose bushes out front, and an assortment of different succulents out back. Not sure I like the rose bushes, they're beautiful but such a pain (sometimes literally).

A lovely article with a lot of great info!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 30, 2020:

Wonderful information! Bev managed a garden supply store for three years, and she would confirm everything you have said here in this informative article. Great videos as a bonus.

Enjoy your next walk and be safe, my friend.

manatita44 from london on March 30, 2020:

I have come up with the idea that if the voice is separated from the person, that is to say, they are not seen, like I was, then it creates a different feel. Just a wild theory. Ha ha.

Caprice on March 30, 2020:

Hi Shauna,

This article is awesome! I learned a few things I've been doing incorrectly; i have some of my flower pots in the full sun and wondered why they aren't doing well...now i have an idea and will move them tonight! Thank you!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 30, 2020:

Yes, manatita, that's my voice. How did you imagine my voice would sound? Just curious.

Yes, your voice matches your face. Your voice is soothing and your face has a gentle aura.

I'll see if I can find a recent pic of me that I like and I'll email it to you. Just so you know, I hate having my picture taken!

Anyway, thanks for the comment. Glad to see you here.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 30, 2020:

Catherine, if the plants are growing on the side of the road wildly and not in someone's yard, pulling them up is not poaching in my eyes. I hope I didn't give the impression that I was taking plants from people's properties. I would never do that!

manatita44 from london on March 30, 2020:

I see you are a naturalist, with a very botanic mind and heart. Awesome!

A very wholesome Hub and a welcome change from the usual.

Is that your voice? Sounds ... unexpected, unfamiliar. That should be true, of course, since we have not met, but still, putting the person and the voice together ... well.

Nice though. Interesting and eloquent. Does my voice mirror my face or photo? Send me a picture. Lovely Hub.

Catherine Tally from Los Angeles on March 29, 2020:

Hi Shauna. I really enjoyed your article and agree that we should use our natural resources as much a possible,

esp. with regard to leaf mulch and observing what grows around us. I can't agree however with digging plants from other locations and bringing them home. As a compromise, I'd say grab a flower or dry seed head, propagate in a pot, then transplant. Plant poaching has become a nationwide problem.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 29, 2020:

Nell, I'm thrilled that you found this article useful and that you like my (primitive, amateur) videos.

You can apply these same principles to container gardening. In fact, my son has many plants in pots on our back patio. Not sure if he plans on moving them into the yard, or if he just likes adorning the perimeter of the patio. Either way, I enjoy seeing thriving native plants everywhere I look on my property.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 29, 2020:

Thank you, John. I'm so over our fellow Hubbers talking about COVID-19. One day those articles won't be evergreen and I know we're all inundated with what's going on in our world today. However, life goes on and we need to find and create beauty.

I learned the hard way that not everything the garden centers have in stock actually thrive. Perhaps that's a marketing gimmick. Paying attention to your climate, lighting, and soil is the key to success in your personal landscape. Pay attention to Mother Nature. She knows best.

Thanks for stopping by, my friend. I always enjoy seeing you in my corner!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 29, 2020:

Becky, it's so good to see you here! Yes, your climate presents its hindrances even more than mine. It seems you're combining woman's ingenuity with Mother Nature to create your own oasis. Good on you!

I agree with you that irrigation is better than sprinkling because of the evaporation and the burning of leaves and ground cover. For those who don't live in such arid climates as yours, it's recommended to water before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. because of the height of the sun. However, in Florida, I need to wait until the sun is starting to set if I want to water in the afternoon. Come 5:00, the heat index is at its peak for the day.

I'm pleased to know you garden despite the drawbacks your area presents. But then again, from what I've learned about you, you always find a way!

Nell Rose from England on March 29, 2020:

I love your videos! And yes they have given me a few ideas even though I only have a balcony, its definitely kicked my butt into action, especially at this time. Good Idea to find what grows naturally near you so that you can just transplant it into your garden. Loved it, shared.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on March 29, 2020:

A lovely change of pace and an enjoyable article, Shauna. I enjoyed the walk with you and your son and the wise gardening tips, especially finding out what grows naturally in your area. Too many people try to grow plants that are totally foreign and not suited to the climate and wonder why they fail. You have a lovely garden. Good job.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on March 29, 2020:

I have the added disadvantage of living in the most arid, and sunniest part of the country. I plant very little that does not need watered. I also cannot dig up plants out of the desert, as it is against the law. They will fine you for digging up a little cactus. I have a rose garden planted in the shade of my house. I have a small raised bed of vegetables, and planted it in the shade of one of the natural bushes. I have to use a raised bed, because the soil is too poor. I use trickle lines to water it, instead of sprinklers. I also planted a few fruit trees, and had to set up a watering line, to water it every day. If I water them all just a few minutes a day, it is good and doesn't take as much water. Irrigating is better than sprinkling, as sprinkling loses too much to evaporation.