URBANA, Ill. – As gardeners, we go to the garden center, wander the aisles, and find a plant we can’t live without. Then at home, we walk to our garden with plant and shovel in hand and look for a space to put our new impulse purchase.
“These spontaneous plant purchases often result in a mixture of plants that have no continuity, leaving our garden without a good overall design and visual interest,” says University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Jennifer Fishburn.
According to Fishburn, each garden bed should have a design theme, such as an edible plant garden, or a goal, such as attracting butterflies or birds. A well-thought-out design will influence your plant choices and help prevent you from straying into the “hodgepodge” zone.
“The time spent planning and drawing a design will be time well spent,” Fishburn says. “A plan will also reduce costly mistakes, avoid incorrect placement of plants, and result in fewer pest and disease problems. A design can be a simple sketch on paper or a formal drawing done to scale. Be sure to draw plants at their mature size.”
In addition, do some homework and research the characteristics of the plant, such as flower color, shape and bloom time, foliage color and texture, mature height, spread and shape of the plant, and pest resistance.
Selecting the right plants to fit the needs of the location is very important to the success of your landscape. Fit your plant selections for the site rather than altering the site to fit the plant.
Find out about the conditions under which the plant prefers to grow, such as hardiness, heat tolerance, amount of light, and soil and moisture conditions. Plants with similar growing conditions should be incorporated into the same planting bed.
Before selecting plants, learn everything you can about the site. Conduct a site analysis, which is a study of the features of the landscape. Conditions to take note of include amount of light, soil type (clays, loam, or sandy), soil pH (acidic or basic), water holding capability of the soil, and temperature extremes for the area.
“One of the best ways to prevent problems is to purchase healthy plants. Look for plants with healthy, properly colored foliage. Inspect foliage for signs of insect damage, insect eggs, or diseases,” Fishburn says.
A well-planned landscape can enhance and sustain the quality of our environment. Plants not only add aesthetic beauty to the landscape; they also attract wildlife, help protect water quality, reduce soil erosion, improve air quality, reduce noise pollution, and reduce heating and cooling costs. Properly placed plants also have economic value and can increase the property value of a home.