I am often asked what my favourite plant is. I really have a hard time with that. It is sort of like asking a parent which child is their favourite….
I have all sorts of plants that I love and enjoy. Our own yard isn’t landscaped very well – as both my wife and I are plant collectors. It is a different story for clients…. Let me explain….
When we choose plants for a landscape we start with what our client wants. Most people do not have a clear idea of what they want so it is up to us to tease out of them enough answers to choose plants well.
We always ask a number of questions of clients.
- Do you have a favourite plant? Some do, many do not.
- Do you have a favourite colour?
- Are there colours you do not like?
- What is your favourite season?
- Do you spend time IN your garden? This may mean we are going to use aromatic plants or not.
Once we have some of those questions answered we assess the site. Someone may have a favourite plant but don’t have the conditions to grow that plant.
We assess the site looking at a number of factors:
- Sun exposure. Full shade or full sun?
- Drainage. Some drainage issues can be “fixed” but some cannot. We have to choose plants that tolerate the soil’s dominant moisture profile.
- Wind. There are plants that will tolerate and thrive in windy conditions.
- Surrounding plants. Many designers are focussed only on their clients’ properties. The long views of neighbouring areas is very important to consider. Not only views but the type and species of plants nearby. If there is a tree in a neighbours yard, how large will the tree be in 5 or 10 years? Is there the possibility of competition, disease or insect pressures?
Once we have our client’s ideas and the site conditions assessed the fun begins. One HUGE benefit of being a graduate of the Niagara parks Commission School of Horticulture is the palette of plants we have available to us. Many landscapers and nurseries fall into habits. Habits of choosing the same plants over and over again.
One thing that really irks me is driving through an area and seeing the same plants used over, and over, and over again. There are cultural as well as design issues with that. Perhaps I’ll write about that in a future post.
We consciously choose plants for each location. By that I mean we discuss the plants, maybe putting 10 or 12 plant choices on the table for each selection. If we use the same plant more than a few times in different landscapes we do our best to evaluate WHY we are using that plant.
We have a client that spends their summers at a cottage. They are rarely at home in July and August. For them we would use primarily spring and fall flowering plants. Some may think that would limit our choices but it actually increases them. With a finite space we can eliminate summer flowering or summer interest from our pallet and put more choices for spring, fall and winter interest.
So choosing plants is not the easiest thing to do. And even after I have said I don’t have a favourite plant I think I can tell you a little about some of my faves. It will be an ongoing thing….