While it may seem that landscape plantings are just the “finishing touches” on a landscaping project, in reality, planting design is very important to the architectural integrity of it. Plant selection can make or break a landscaping project for the simple fact that plants are living architecture – they grow! Improper plant selections can overgrown their space, become a maintenance nightmare, and detract from the beautiful hardscaping work.
Our 4-Step Strategy for Selecting Plants for Landscape Plantings.
Following this four-step strategy – in this order – ensures the success of our landscape planting projects:
1. Growth habit.
The first rule in landscape architecture is scale. Everything must be proportional to the available space. Because plants grow, knowing the ultimate size and growth habit of selected plants is the first priority. As the saying goes, “right plant, right place.”
A second most important consideration in selecting landscape plants is the environment they will be growing in. Some examples of microclimate variables are:
- Plants that grow in full sun will not do well in shade.
- Plants that like moist conditions will not do well in dry conditions.
- Some evergreens are susceptible to harsh winter winds.
- Plantings on the seacoast should be salt tolerant and thrive in sandy soil.
3. Evergreen or deciduous.
Screen plantings for privacy should be evergreen when viewed from inside the house. However, privacy plantings in outdoor living areas need not be. While they do provide year-round interest, evergreens will also grow more slowly.
4. Flower and foliage color.
Many folks have this backwards: they choose plants for their yard based on flower and foliage. However, once the first three landscape design criteria are met, there are still many options in this area.
Native Plantings Naturalize the Landscape.
Whenever possible, we like to use plants that are native to New Hampshire. Especially on lakefront properties, these plants will outperform introduced species and create a very natural organic feel to the landscape. We often refer to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Service’s (NHDES) list of plants suitable for the re-vegetation of shoreline areas and the New Hampshire Cooperative Extension’s native species list.
Soil Amendments Ensure Healthy, Fast-Growing Plants.
Landscape plantings do not fill in overnight. Remember the old axiom about new plants: “The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, the third-year it leaps.” However, we have found it’s worth it to invest in a healthy layer of good soil rich in organic material. It reduces plant loss and hastens growth.
The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago. The second-best time is today.– Chinese Proverb