Module 11: Choosing your plants!

Choosing the right plants is one of the most important steps in creating a successful and enjoyable garden, whether starting from scratch or looking to enhance an existing garden. The right plant can transform your garden immediately. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just going out and buying plants you like the look of (although what you like does have a major impact on what you buy), but you also have to consider other areas like; understanding the space you have, to the garden aspect and different soil types.  

In this module, we’ll cover the basics of the different types of plants available, factors to consider when choosing plants, and resources for finding the best plants for your garden. We’ll also provide hands-on activities and practical tips for planting and caring for your chosen plants. 

In a previous module, we went over understanding your garden’s size, which will play a key role in choosing what types to add to your garden. Before purchasing a plant, do some research into the ultimate size of the plant. You should also consider the size of any garden beds, borders, and containers, as this will impact your purchase type. 

Choosing plants for your garden
Choosing Plants for your garden

Lesson Objectives

  • Identify which plant work in what garden conditions
  • Conduct research into more plants for different conditions
  • List potential plants for your garden asked on your garden conditions

Factors to consider for your plants

One of the most crucial aspects of choosing the right type for your garden is understanding the environment in which it will grow. Every garden has unique conditions that can benefit or hinder plant growth, so assessing these conditions before selecting plants is essential. Here are some key factors to consider when understanding your garden:

A. Importance of understanding your garden’s environment:

Before you begin selecting plants, it’s important to understand the environmental conditions in your garden. This includes factors such as soil type and quality, sunlight and shade patterns, climate and weather, garden size and layout, and existing plants and features. By understanding these conditions, you can choose plants well-suited to your garden and more likely to thrive.

B. Soil type and quality:

Soil type and quality can have a significant impact on plant growth. Some plants thrive in acidic soil, while others prefer alkaline soil. The soil’s texture and drainage also play a role in plant growth. Once you know your soil type and quality, you can choose plants that are best suited to your garden’s soil conditions.

C. Understanding sunlight and shade patterns in your garden:

Sunlight is essential for plant growth, but different plants have different sunlight requirements. Some plants need full sun, while others prefer partial or full shade. Observe your garden’s sunlight and shade patterns throughout the day to determine which areas receive the most and least sunlight. This will help you choose types that are best suited to the amount of light available in your garden.

Activity:

To put these concepts into practice, assess your own gardens and take notes on soil type and quality, sunlight and shade patterns, climate and weather, garden size and layout, and existing plants and features. This activity will help you better understand the unique conditions of your gardens and make more informed plant selections.

Plant Types

Once you understand the environmental conditions in your garden, it’s time to choose the right type of plant. There are many different types of plants to choose from, each with its own benefits and limitations. Here are some key points to consider when selecting plants:

A. Types of plants:

There are many different types of plants to choose from, each with its own characteristics and growing requirements. Annuals are plants that complete their life cycle in one growing season and must be replanted yearly. Perennials are types that come back year after year and often require less maintenance than annuals. Shrubs and trees are woody plants that can provide structure and height to a garden. Vegetables and herbs are edible plants that can provide fresh produce for your kitchen. Bulbs are plants that grow from underground structures and produce flowers in the spring or summer. Vines are plants that climb or trail and can add vertical interest to a garden.

B. Benefits and limitations of each type of plant:

Each type of plant has its own benefits and limitations. Annuals provide a burst of colour and can be changed yearly for variety but require more maintenance and replanting. Perennials are more low-maintenance and come back year after year but may have a shorter blooming period. Shrubs and trees provide structure and height to a garden but may take longer to establish and require more space. Vegetables and herbs provide fresh produce for your kitchen but may require more attention to pests and diseases. Bulbs provide colourful blooms in the spring or summer but may have a limited blooming period. Vines can add vertical interest to a garden but may require support structures and regular pruning.

There are many popular and recommended plants for each category. For annuals, popular choices include petunias, marigolds, and impatiens. Recommended perennials include coneflowers, hostas, and daylilies. For shrubs and trees, popular choices include hydrangeas, dogwoods, and Japanese maples. Recommended vegetables and herbs include tomatoes, basil, and peppers. Popular bulbs include daffodils, tulips, and crocuses. For vines, popular choices include clematis, morning glories, and ivy.

Activity:

Create a list of your preferred plants in each category based on your own preferences and garden environment. This hands-on activity will help you better understand the different types of plants and how they can be used in your garden. Creating a list of preferred plants gives you a better idea of what to look for when selecting plants for your garden.

Aesthetics and functionality

When selecting plants for your garden, it’s important to balance aesthetics and functionality. Aesthetics refers to the appearance of the plant, including its colour, texture, and shape. Functionality refers to the purpose of the plant, such as providing shade, privacy, or attracting pollinators. Finding the right balance between aesthetics and functionality will help you create a garden that is not only beautiful but also serves your needs.

Plants for Garden Conditions

Dry & sunny conditions

If your garden is in a sunny or dry area, there are many different types you can add to your garden. Some of our favourites include Alliums, Iris, Lilies, Tulips, Petunias, Dianthus, Salvia, Clematis, Wisteria, dwarf Pampas grass, Lavender, Buddleja and Hibiscus.

Shaded garden conditions

There are lots of plants that grow well in the shade, including Mahonia, Viburnum and Sarcococca. Clematis, Honeysuckle and Hydrangea petiolaris are also good options. Bulbs like English Bluebells, Snowdrops and some varieties of Cyclamen are good for damp shade. These also work for north-facing gardens that are in the shade for most of the day.

Ground cover plants

Ground cover plants are normally low-developing plants that structure appealing hills or covers. They quickly cover the bare soil and cover the ground. They are often low-maintenance and evergreen. Some plants include hardy Geraniums, flower carpet roses, Lavender and ferns.

Clay and chalk soils

Clay soils can be hard to work with if you are a beginner, often needing to b improved by adding your own compost and organic mulch. But some do grow well in well-draining clay soils, including Hydrangeas, Viburnum, Roses, Buddleja, and Fuchsia. Plants for chalk soils include Buxus, Hydrangea, Clematis, and Dianthus.

Ericaceous plants

Some plants require being planted in ericaceous soil or in more acidic soils. These include Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias, Japanese Maples (Acer), Magnolias and Heathers.

Activity:

Using the above information, research more plants that work in your garden conditions and list any you would like to add to your garden.

Conclusion

In conclusion, choosing the right plants is essential for creating a successful and enjoyable garden. Understanding the environment in which they will grow is crucial, and factors such as soil type and quality, sunlight and shade patterns, climate and weather, garden size and layout, and existing plants and features must be considered. Once you understand these conditions, you can choose from different plant types, such as annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees, vegetables and herbs, bulbs, and vines, each with its own benefits and limitations. By researching and creating a list of preferred plants, you can make informed decisions that will transform your garden and provide lasting enjoyment.

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Updated on March 5, 2024

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