Before making the journey to select plants for your garden make sure you have a clear idea of where you would like to plant them, and the type of soil with which you will be working. Read the label and examine each plant before you buy it to make sure it is right for the spot you have in mind. Buying the wrong plant could waste an entire growing season.
Always check the plant’s label for information about final height and spread and how long it will take to grow to full size. Ask for help if the label doesn’t tell you. Then consider the situation you have in mind for the plant and whether the fully grown specimen will be in scale, and in keeping with its surroundings.
Be sure to check when the plant’s optimal growth season is, or whether the plant has the added bonus of a second season.
Many evergreen variegated plants, such as Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’, are an excellent addition to any garden. This shrub has bright golden-yellow markings on leaves which are retained on the plant throughout the year, and do not easily succumb to weather damage. Cotinuscoggygyia ‘Royal Purple’ is a tall, handsome shrub that, though leafless during the winter, has fluffy pink flowers in summer and rich plum-purple leaves throughout the spring and summer. The leaves turn a dazzling red color in the autumn before they fall.
The small, upright flowering cherry tree, Prunus `Amanogawa’, produces masses of soft pink flowers in the spring and a spectacular show of color in the autumn, as the leaves turn to fiery reds, oranges and yellows, making the tree resemble a bright flame.
Any plant should earn its keep and reward you for your efforts, but no where more so than in a smaller garden, where space is at a premium.
Dwarf conifers are a good choice in a small garden as they will mature without becoming a danger to nearby buildings.
Every plant has a preference for the ideal conditions it needs in order to grow well, whether it is hot or shady, acid or alkaline, dry or damp, and most will have the greatest of difficulty growing in the wrong position.
Many conditions can be modified, at least to some extent, to extend the range of plants which can be grown. Improve the drainage of a localized wet spot, for example, by incorporating sharp sand or gravel into the soil, and by adding organic matter, such as well-rotted farmyard manure, to encourage worm activity. Dry areas will also benefit from the addition of organic matter, which will hold moisture during the vital summer months. The use of a mulch will also reduce the amount of moisture lost by evaporation and reduce competition from weeds.
Acidic conditions can be modified by the addition of ground limestone or chalk, to raise the pH. It is difficult to lower the pH if the soil is alkaline, however. Flowers of sulphur will have some effect on alkalinity but the difference is only very slight and you will have to repeat the treatment every year. On the whole, it is better to choose plants that will thrive in your soil rather than laboring to change its pH, which may involve a lot of effort for little reward; indeed a great range of plants will not mind a slight alkalinity. If your soil is alkaline, it would be best to stick with growing acid-lovers in containers, and this can he very successful and suitable for many of them. Many fascinating and attractive plants also enjoy growing in acidic conditions, so choose wisely and watch your plants thrive.