The old adage “right plant in the right place” is the mantra for all garden designers. But what does that actually mean and what are the many considerations of the term “right place’?
There is also another element to this, and its called “The seven principles of plant selection”
Green plants depend on light to manufacture their required food for growth through photosynthesis. Different plants require different amounts of light to do this and most have a preferred position relating to the amount of direct sunshine they receive. For ease for the gardener, plants are divided into a number of “light” categories.
The ‘Full Sun’ category usually means a plant requires at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. These “sun lovers” originate from hotter climates and many are also draught tolerant.
The ‘Partial Shade’ category usually means that plants require between three and six hours of direct sunlight per day, but best avoiding the baking midday sun. ‘dappled shade’ refers to plants being sheltered from direct sun by the overhanging leaves of trees.
The ‘Full Shade’ category usually means that plants required less than three hours of direct sunlight per day. These plants are slow growing and particularly useful for dark shaded areas.
2.Soil and moisture
Soil provides the anchorage, nutrients, air and moisture to the plant’s roots. Soil can be classified by the amount of clay, silt and sand it contains. Heavy clay soil retains a lot of moisture whilst heavy sandy soil loses a lot of moisture. Soils are also grouped in their level of acidity or alkalinity of water-soluble substances contained within it. As with sunshine, plants prefer varying types of soil in both moisture content and PH value. A well-known plant that requires a soil with high acidity is the rhododendron and is frequently planted in post with ericaceous soil.
A specific plant must be suitable to the climate it exists in, particularly its ability to cope with cold weather. Plants unable to survive severe frost sees the liquid contained within its cells turn to ice crystals, expand and burst the cell walls. For this reason plants specifically categorised as ‘tropical’ usually need protection of moving to warmer environs over the uk winter. A ‘hardiness rating’ usually gives a minimum temperature that a plant can survive in and /or a hardiness zone in a particular country .
Plants should be selected considering their fully mature growth with the normal benchmark being their size in height and spread at five years. The benefits of using high plants and trees is for screening of unwanted structures or views, but trees in particular should be chosen so not to reach overhead wires or structures. The width (or spread) of plants need to be considered to prevent overcrowding but can be used to join similar plants to eventually create one big specimen. Trees should be planted with the consideration of branches and roots being well away from buildings.
5.Type of Plant
There is a vast array of plant types with individual characteristics of live and growth which helps to make up so many different types of planting styles. Whilst these characteristics can be subdivided further, the main ones are: annuals, perennials, Ferns and grasses, bulbs, shrubs and trees which are then divided into deciduous and evergreen.
Annuals grow, flower, seed and die in one year. Perennials live a minimum of two years and die back to the ground over the winter. Bulbs are flowering plants with an enlarged stem for storing its food. Once flowered, the plant then produced energy in its bulb for the following year, very much like recharging a battery.
The term deciduous means that the plant sheds its leaves during the winter months whereas evergreen plants do not.
Plant’s flowers, fruits, shapes and foliage are all considered for their visual appeal and interest. Foliage can be varied in colour, shape and texture with some changing colour in different seasons. Flowers are the initial appeal for annuals and biennials, all with different flowering periods and used to create a constant blaze of colour by careful planning. Seeds in the form of berrylike fruits on shrubs and trees also add to the visual interest and contrast to the green framework. Fragrance of plants add another sensory factor to the garden visitor.
The amount of attention a plant needs to grow and thrive should always be considered alongside the home owner’s needs and time available. Regular attention can be described as weeding, feeding, watering. Seasonal attention can be described as pruning or deadheading, dividing and transplanting.
So those are the 7 principles, and with a little research into plants you are attracted to, or have had in your garden for years that have not particularly thrived, relocating or planting new purchases with consideration to the 7 principles, should work wonders.