In this time of dark winter retreat, it is so much fun to imagine additions to the garden. It’s also a good time to locate plants, so they will be available to plant in late winter or early spring for an easy transition to their new landscape life.
When I contemplate plants for purchase, I look for those with several desirable characteristics to justify the expense and effort, and to ensure that after a few years the investment in time and money will pay off. They need to
- Fit the space allotted without constant fussing
- Look nice with their companions
- Look good on their own
- Give the gardener real pleasure for the life of the plant
The ultimate test is, can the gardener say, “I would plant THAT one again!”?
Desirable characteristics include these specifics:
Native – Native plants feed native wildlife. They are not always the easiest plants to fit into an ornamental landscape, but there are stunning and lesser known ones that are just fabulous horticultural subjects as well as the usual small number of species used in many landscapes. Check out the longer post (rant?rave?) about it here
Evergreen – Evergreens, like native plants are just essential. They cover the ground year-round to protect the soil from erosion and leaching by constant rain; they shade out weeds, provide interest in (usually) all seasons, and also provide protection for wildlife and insects. Conifers are very beneficial to birds and provide structure for habitat as well as interest at all levels. Variegated foliage adds another level of interest and fun
Fragrance – Aromas have powerful associations for many of us, they can evoke a childhood scene, or just give us great pleasure. Fragrance in a plant is a big bonus, whether in foliage or flowers
Blooms – So many reasons for good flowers! Pollinators and beneficial insects really need a consistent nectar supply throughout the season, and we humans like to see flowers at all seasons too, if possible. Conveniently, there are flowering trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants and groundcovers that do the job
Edibility – A nice extra if you have something you can put in the stew, make tea, or cure a cold, whether herb, root, leaf or flower. Check out all the edible flowers you can put in a salad! If you get out in late winter and early spring, you can harvest several weeds while they are still tender: purslane, chickweed, miner’s lettuce (not a weed – a native herb), dandelion, ‘shot-weed’ and almost any other mustard family plant, etc, etc. Be sure to positively identify all edibles before ingesting
Which plants do these things for you? That will depend on your soil, sun exposure, water availability and of course, tons of other factors, including what your own preferences are.