Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 7, Issue 3
   May 2012
   No-Nonsense Plants for the Garden

As a garden instructor, I'm frequently asked about foolproof plants. Before growing or buying new plants, I go through a mental checklist that puts me on course to no-nonsense selections. First, I determine the function the plant must perform. Will it be used to create privacy, as an accent plant to attract and hold viewers' eyes or to instill a particular mood in the garden? Next, I confirm the shape, eventual size and the grow-out time required to achieve the desired function. I also learn about the plant's hardiness, adaptability to urban conditions (I live in the city) and its ability to tolerate various light, moisture and soil conditions. Care and maintenance, including watering, fertilizer, pruning and disease prevention, are critical if the plant is to thrive. Last, I consider availability and cost; however, to me cost is relative, as I would rather pay more for a plant that will thrive than buy a less expensive plant that will be only a disappointment.

In addition to my own selections, I often look to garden designers' choices, as meeting client needs and avoiding costly plant replacements is a must for them. The following is a list of the attributes of truly practical plants.

Dependable Performers
Over the years, these garden achievers demonstrate their worth by thriving and persisting in a variety of environments. They outperform others and look good even under adverse growing conditions. They include:
Native plants that have a long history of adapting to and thriving in local conditions;
Plants that are somewhat flexible to being planted in sun or part shade such as Jacob's ladder (Polemonium spp.), bugbane (Actaea spp.), various columbines (Aquilegia spp.) and foxgloves (Digitalis spp.);
Perennials such as daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.), peonies, iris, coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) and lupines;
Cornelian cherry
A lovely and hardy cornelian cherry
Woody plants such as cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) and witch hazels (Hamamelis spp.).
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