Know a plant’s needs

Now that spring is here to stay, the excitement and frequency of making trips to garden centers is rising exponentially, making temptations difficult to resist; so, while easier said than done, it makes sense to assess the available space, soil and light conditions, and microclimate of different areas of the garden before yielding to temptation.

I remember some time back what a challenge it became for us to find the right location for a beautiful but badly pot-bound encore azaleas that was in dire need to be in the ground. Azaleas, as we know, prefer to be grown in partial shade. Therefore, desperate as we were, the only option we found ourselves left with was to dig up an existing perennial to make room for the potted azalea; interestingly, the location is working out well because most of the neighboring vegetation consists of acid-loving plants such as camellias and other azaleas thus making my job of taking care of this part of the garden a little easier, in particular applying the right fertilizer when needed. By the way, the perennial we thought we had to sacrifice has come back, now co-existing comfortably with the encore azalea!

Although not always doable, but it does help a gardener to group together annuals, vegetables, perennials and other plants  with similar cultural requirement such as sun or shade, drought resistance and pH of the soil. For instance, plants that like to be watered frequently might be difficult to raise if grown in the vicinity of those that do not. Also, it increases the efficiency substantially to grow plants with high water needs close to the source of irrigation so that watering is not such a chore.  

For successful gardening, it is true that location is just as crucial as finding the right plant. Although I don’t do it as much, but at one stage in all these years of my gardening adventures, I think I spent more time and effort moving plants around until satisfied than tending to them. Therefore, if unsure, it does  help to  consult other gardeners, personnel at garden centers or a book, preferably a regional one, about the cultural needs of a plant before getting it. One such book that comes to mind right away is none other than the one co-authored by our very own Richard Nunnally, titled Best Garden Plants for Virginia, published by Lone Pine Publishing International, Inc; compact and easy to carry, not only is each featured plant in the book accompanied with a comprehensive profile but a color illustration, too, to help readers plan, take care of and enjoy their gardens.   

Gita’s Tip of the Month: Select flowering bedding plants with just enough open flowers to give a glimpse of the actual color of the flowers; opt for plants with more unopened buds to  have the opportunity of watching them unfold as the season progresses.


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