We all want the best value when we go to buy a plant, but how do you tell what is a good deal?
The cheapest plants are not always the best to buy. What is the value in buying something cheap if it doesn’t live, or grows slower than a more expensive plant?
There are two decisions to make:
1. What plant variety you should choose.
2. Which plant from those available you should choose.
Some plants are very easy to grow but others are a great deal more difficult. Choose plant varieties according to your own capabilities and the amount of time and effort you are able to devote to caring for the plant. For example:
· If you don’t have the time to water and feed tender annual flowers, you may be better off growing woody flowering plants like roses.
· If you don’t have the time or skills to identify and spray pests and diseases when they come along, perhaps you would be better off avoiding roses and growing something relatively pest-free, like lavender.
· If you have limited water available and live in a dry climate, you might be better growing drought-tolerant succulents rather than struggling with water-loving plants.
Too many people try to grow the plants they dream about, and end up with a collection of sick plants. These same people could have had a collection of healthy but different plants, if their choice of plants was better matched with their ability to care for them.
Be prepared to Replace Sick Plants
Plants have a limited lifespan – and that time varies from place to place. For example:
· Lavender does not last as long in warm temperate or subtropical climates as they do in mild and cool temperate climates.
· Some bulbs never flower as well again as they do in their first season.
· Marguerites can become woody and leggy, and produce less flowers.
Grow what you want and discard it when it’s finished - it’s still cheaper than buying a bunch of flowers!
LOW MAINTENANCE PLANTS
The easiest plants to care for can also vary from place to place.
- Plants that are easy care species in one locality may often be declared a weed and illegal to grow somewhere else (e.g. Lantana, a native of the Mediterranean region, is a problematic weed in subtropical Queensland, Australia - but a very hardy prized garden plant in some other places).
- Some plants are not particularly easy to care for when they are first planted, but once established they may require little ongoing care.
- Be careful about who you take advice from - you don’t have to be an expert or be familiar with local conditions in order to sell a plant. Do your own research and take advice from people in your locality, but recognise the fact that the only way you will ever be sure about choosing the best plants is to get to know them for yourself.
Note: Plants suggested here, or in other books, might not all be appropriate in your locality. You should never use a book, website or other published material as a definitive guide for what to grow where you live.
Plants that can be easy to care for include:
· Most daisies
· Lantana montevidensis
· Juniperus conferta
· Indian Hawthorn
· Japanese Flowering Quince
· Red Hot Pokers
At the nursery, you’ll be confronted with lots of choices. Even after you’ve decided on the plant variety you may still need to decide whether to buy a large one, small one, one covered with flowers, or one without flowers. Always think about what’s going to give you the best long-term results.
- Plants that are healthier and not pot-bound are more likely to grow faster and overcome the effects of diseases or insect attack.
- Larger plants often take more effort to establish but if you are prepared to put the effort in, they will give a more immediate effect. If you don’t put the effort in, they are more likely to die.
- Plants with a good, uniform shape i.e. straight stem, symmetrical branches, and a good coverage of leaves will get off to a good start as soon as they’re planted out.
- Watch out for plants with lots of soft, lush new growth – these aren’t necessarily the healthiest or best plants to buy. Unless you can give the plant ideal conditions (moist, fertile soil in a sheltered position), lush growth is likely to wilt and die back once the plant is put in the ground. The plant will most likely recover but it may take several weeks for new shoots to grow.
- A plant covered with flowers is appealing, but isn’t necessarily in good health. Even very sick plants can flower well. Instead, look for sturdy well-formed plants with healthy green leaves. If you really want a plant that will give you flowers quickly, choose one with lots of buds rather than fully opened flowers.
- Check that your plants have not been exposed to a fluctuating water supply that will cause problems later on.
- Try and ascertain whether the plants have been fed, and if so - on what? A change in their nutrient supply can be devastating.
- If the plants have been stored in a shade house or under a cold frame they may need acclimatising. Try to replicate their growing conditions in your garden.
- Avoid plants with any sign of insect attack or visible disease. Not only are these plants potentially going to die on you, but they could devastate the rest of your garden by spreading pests and diseases.
- Observe the standards set around the nursery. A clean and tidy site where health concerns are readily observed is more likely to produce healthy plants than one where cuttings are left lying around, compost is left exposed, and pots are not sterilised before re-use.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Advice
A reputable, well-established nursery will normally give you sound advice on what the best value plants for your garden are, particularly if staff are formally trained and have been working in the industry for 10 years or more.
A good horticulturist won’t try to pressure you into buying their most expensive plants, nor will they attempt to sell you old, tired stock. After all, they need your repeat business.
Give the sales staff a clear indication of what you want in terms of plant size, type, and maintenance requirements – and you’ll be more likely to get the right plants for your garden.
Extract from Garden Design Part 1