Buying Plants

What plant will fit? – Soil, aspect, space. Get to the Garden Centre! It’s at this time of year that the hordes descend on the local plant emporium, hungry for something to fill their gardens with. The shelves are heaving with plants in flower, but which one do you choose? This week I’ll be talking about how to spend your cash wisely, starting with knowing your garden. Where I am in Worcestershire, the soil is mostly clay, which means that chalk-loving plants won’t thrive without a lot of care and specialist feeding. So – first, understand your soil (more info on that in future posts) and take note of the level of light where it’s going to go. For shade, think ferns and hostas, for sun, day-lilies and roses.

What will the plant do? – Focal point? Filler? Ornamental? Not everything in the garden can be a star. Some plants have other functions, like providing structure (trees and shrubs) or winter interest (evergreens, or plants with colourful stems). A good all-round plant book can be really useful for understanding the varieties out there, and for inspiration. Note down whether a plant is evergreen or deciduous (drops it’s leaves in winter), and whether it’s a perennial (comes back every year) or an annual (you’ll have to replace it next year). Have a list of plants you want to look for, and when you get to the garden centre, take note of the label – they can be very helpful.

Choosing a plant – Top growth inspection. You’ll rarely find a plant in a garden centre that’s not in leaf or flower – they just don’t sell. However, if you are looking for something out of season, and need to know if it’s alive, check for buds (see the picture), stem flexibility, and if all else fails, scrape a tiny bit of the stem away – if it’s green underneath, you’ve got a live one. Bear in mind that some plants will have been ‘encouraged’ into flower early to look nice on the shelves, and that they might struggle to settle once in your garden.

Choosing a plant – Root inspection

Any reputable nursery won’t mind a careful root inspection. Gently tease the pot away, and look at the roots. If they are healthy and have reached the edge of the pot, that’s good. Circling round and round – it’s pot-bound and might not thrive. If the soil simply falls off some tiny roots or a cutting with no roots, it’s not well-grown enough to be sold. Ask about the growing medium – avoid peat as its removal damages the environment, and buy UK grown if you can – they will be better acclimatised to the conditions here, and settle better in your garden.

There’s a lot to remember when choosing and buying plants. And even when you get it home, it’s not quite as simple as ‘Dig a hole, put it in’. The most common lament I hear from my clients is that they’ve spent a fortune on plants, and they’ve all died! I can help you choose plants that will thrive in your garden, and even create a bespoke planting plan full of all of your favourite colours and scents.

If you’d like a garden full of thriving plants, and interest all year round, just get in touch.

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