It’s a common practice to tour the neighborhood and look at others’ gardens to gleam ideas for your own landscape. You’re all in the same USDA Gardening Zone so the plants are certain to be a success in your yard, right?
Just because your neighbor is growing a plant doesn’t mean you can, or should. It’s not uncommon for a visitor to one of my gardens to say, “I can’t grow that” or “this has never done well for me.” Exploring other gardens is a wonderful way to get fresh ideas, I do it all the time. But it’s just the first step in selecting plants that are ideally suited for your garden. Several factors should be taken into consideration before assuming a plant is perfect for your yard.
Yes, the grass can be greener on the other side of the fence. Micro-climates are simply pockets in the landscape where the growing conditions are just different enough to allow us to push the plant envelope. A Southern Magnolia tucked into a sheltered location of the garden, safe from harsh winter winds, can thrive in our area. The same tree, in an open landscape, can suffer considerable damage in the winter.
All soil is not alike. Chances are your soil is rich on the clay side. But what has happened to the soil over the years? Did construction disturb the native soil? Was top soil brought into the landscape? Does your neighbor amend the soil with compost, leaf litter or pine fines? The soil is the foundation of any plant’s growing condition. The difference between a tighter soil and freely draining soil has a huge impact on many plants.
I grew Rodgersia for years in a park garden which I tended to four to six days a week, without fail. When I was there I deeply watered the plants. Visitors to the gardens would have no idea I gave the plants such heavy drinks. If they installed the same plant in their shady garden, it may have limped along or failed completely.
Maybe we are not to say this as landscape professionals, but sometimes it’s just luck that a plant does well. I have Pieris Japonica growing at Bettman. From what I have read, it prefers sun. Mine is in the shade. It likes to be cared for. Mine was neglected for years. It’s growing snug up against a brick staircase: not even in a traditional garden space. Yet, it thrives. I have yet to meet a gardener who has had great success with this plant.
What to do?
It behooves you to research all you can about a plant you want to add to the garden. There is so much more to know beyond sun and gardening zone requirements.
Successful gardeners are not born, they are created over many years toiling in the soil.
Our designers, installation teams, maintenance crews, even yours truly behind the keyboard, have been gardening for many years. Some of us hold degrees in landscape and/or horticulture. We know what will work, what will not, and how to determine which the case may be. 271.2332