First, you need to determine your hardiness zone by consulting
the United States National Arboretum site listed in the Further
Reading section. This will narrow your choice of perennial plants
to those that can survive the winter in your area. Plants that are
native to the region where they are cultivated are already adapted
to the soil and climate and require less work than exotic plants.
If you have a passion for an exotic plant that has requirements
completely different from what your climate and soil have to
offer, it will be much more of a challenge to grow.
You can get a general idea of the types of plants that are native
to your area by determining the natural ecosystem of the region.
Do you live high in the mountains, in the desert, in the plains
of the Midwest, along the coast, in the cold North or subtropical
Deep South? Cultivars from similar ecosystems in other parts of
the world may thrive in your garden.
Next, choose the location of the garden. The placement of
the garden has to consider the angle of the sun, which differs in
summer and winter and affects light quality. Make a diagram of
the area you intend to cultivate and note the number of hours
of sunshine it receives. Shadows cast from buildings, trees, walls,
and other structures change over the course of the day and from
season to season, so it helps to take some time to make observations before you decide on your location and design. Determine
whether the site receives full sun, part sun, part shade, or shade,
and further narrow down your list of plants to those that will
thrive under those light conditions. Also, if you want to plant a
lawn you must distinguish between turf grasses that thrive in sun
versus those that like shade.
Finally, determine the type of soil in your chosen site by sending
samples to a local soil-testing laboratory and telling them the types
of plants you would like to grow. They will recommend whether
you need to amend your soil pH or add fertilizers or compost, and
in what amounts. Also make sure that if your plants require supplemental
water, you are near enough to a source that you can easily
water them when necessary. Most plants, including those that tolerate
drought, require supplemental water until they have established
a strong root system—this could take more than a year.
You can get more ideas for plants to try in your garden by
reading garden magazines, taking trips to local garden centers, or
by looking through seed catalogs and talking to your neighbors.
Seed catalogs offer the greatest selection, but if you want more
immediate results you need to purchase bedding plants. You may
also want to incorporate woody ornamentals and a lawn into
your landscape. Most gardens are a work in progress and may
take years to complete.
Once you have a list of the particular plants suitable for your
site, you must group them together in some sort of an artistic
arrangement by color, shape, and size and make sure they are
timed to bloom so that the garden has year-round appeal. Usually
six of each type of flowering plant are grouped together to
get a more vivid display of color. The color and shape of both the
foliage and flowers are considered. A mix of plants with different
photoperiods blooms at different times and provides a longer
display than plants that bloom all at once. Annuals bloom
from spring through fall and are often used in combination
with perennials that only bloom for a month or two each season.
Fragrant flowers are chosen to perfume the air. A garden that is
used at night may have plants with white flowers and silver foliage
that reflects the moonlight.
Formal garden designs include geometric patterns created
with carefully pruned woody ornamentals and plants with colorful
and sweetly scented blossoms, and may have works of art such
as statues or frescoes incorporated into the design. There can
be fountains to cool the temperature in the heat of the day and
benches on which to sit and enjoy the tranquility of the garden.
Small ponds or artificially created water gardens are cultivated to
produce water lilies and other water-loving plants (Figure 7.1).
|Figure 7.1 Small ponds with water lilies or other
aquatic plants are popular features of formal
gardens. The garden above is located in
|Figure 7.2 Deryl James from Trees Unlimited in
Saratoga, Wyoming, stands next to a windbreak
planted on a residential building site.
Landscaping may also be required to add plants back to soil
that has been disturbed by construction or other human activity.
Plants that grow quickly from seed and form fibrous roots are
often used to stabilize steep banks that are prone to erosion. You
can increase wildlife habitat with the creation of a wildflower
meadow or create privacy with trees, thickets, or hedges, which
will also provide food and shelter for wildlife and act as windbreaks
to slow the wind and create microclimates (Figure 7.2).
Plants such as philodendrons are often used in public and
private indoor spaces to add visual interest and to purify the air.
In these cases, the plants are usually chosen for their distinctive
foliage and low maintenance and are planted in decorative containers.
These plants are usually tropical plants with attractive
large leaves that do not require full sun.