A successful landscape, meaning one that is healthy and attractive, comes down to three simple elements. No matter where you are gardening, your particular style or your experience level, a great garden is built on these three elements: soil, water and plant selection. These three elements do not work independently of each other. In fact, it’s how these three work, or don’t work, together that determines if a garden plan is a success or doomed to fail.
Soil is the foundation of the garden. Poor soil is a weak foundation leaving the gardener with a constant battle. Healthy soil, be it acidic, alkaline, clay- or sand-based is at the root (excuse the pun) of a thriving garden. We talked earlier about amending a clay-dominant, waterlogged garden. (See this post). The goal in making this soil viable was not to transform it to a different soil structure such as clay-rich to a sharply draining sandy soil, but to amend and improve upon what was there to begin with.
No garden can survive without water. We have used the term drought tolerant to such a degree in garden magazines and books that we may have led gardeners to believe that to mean water-free. Even the desert gardens of the West have some water, but they also have the soil, see above, and the plants, yet to come, that are ideally suited for such an environment. In Cincinnati, this is not us. We get rain, sometimes not a lot, but it rains. When we design according to the amended soil at hand, we will be using plants that require some amount of watering. This is why landscape professionals such as ourselves, stress to our homeowners the importance of built-in irrigation. Today’s systems allow us to divide the landscape into zones and set the amount of water going to said zones accordingly. As a result each area gets the exact amount of water it needs: no more, no less. If your landscape calls for a moist, shade garden, we can set the system for more water. Conversely, if your sunny, raised rock garden only needs a little drink now and again, the system will accommodate. Now that we have married the soil structure with reasonable watering amounts, we can select the plants.
The right plant for the location is key! Let’s say we have amended our wet, clay soil to create an organically rich soil, and our irrigation is set to ensure the moisture level remains consistent. Now we can select our plants. Ligularias will thrive if tucked in the shade as will ferns and hostas. In a sunny, raised rock garden with minimal watering, our lantanas, sedums and lavenders will thrive. Beyond water and soil requirements, we must also consider the growth habit of a plant- will it reach 50 plus feet, or will it create a marvelous mound with long weeping branches?
Understanding a plant at its maturity as well as its water and soil requirements makes it possible to create a successful garden.
Stumped? Not sure where to begin? Call us to schedule a garden walkabout. We will evaluate your property and set you on the path to success.