Gardening 101

Right Plant, Right Place in the Garden

For plant lovers, a shopping trip to the garden center can be similar to a child’s toy store excursion. Just like the child running from aisle to aisle in search of the perfect toy soon to be discarded, we sometimes purchase plants that appeal to us without giving thought to their final resting place.

Before going shopping, first walk around the garden looking for bare spots and list the qualities and cultural needs required. Then you will be prepared to search out the right plant for the right place when you make a trip to the garden center.

Plant selection and placement are but two elements in the landscape design process. If you satisfied the initial steps of design with a base plan, site analysis and checklist of garden requirements, you are now ready to locate, develop and plant individual garden rooms using the following simple steps.

Research each plant’s qualities including form, bloom color and time, fall color, texture, fragrance, berries, bark, plant hardiness, mature size, growth rate, light requirements, soil fertility, moisture and drainage issues. Success with plants is dependent on your knowledge of each plant’s needs. A quick Google search and before you know it you have the knowledge to develop a ‘green thumb’ or two with the added bonus of a bit of soil under your nails.

Mixed borders that include an assortment of plants allow you to create a garden with year round interest. A variety of small trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, bulbs, groundcovers and vines intermingled in beds provide opportunities to apply rhythm, emphasis and scale.

Repetition of some plant species within the border provides harmony and balance. Dwarf and low growing plants used in conjunction with medium and large plants increase bed depth and allow plants to intertwine. Space plants based on projected mature size or you will find yourself with excessive maintenance forever.

Test your soil, and lime and feed as required. Water deeply on a regular weekly basis in the absence of rain, use three inches of mulch and apply slow release balanced organic fertilizers in early spring.

Prune to shape after flowering or in early spring before new foliage appears. Monitor plants regularly for disease and insects and use environmentally safe products for control. Purchase good quality, disease free plants that you have researched to meet your specific requirements.

Be aware that there will always be the unruly member of your plant community that will defy all of your efforts, so be prepared to rid the landscape of any plant that no longer pleases you.

Ask questions about new and exciting plants on your next visit to the garden center. Our zonal plant palette is extraordinarily large and there are many new species and varieties waiting to take root in your garden.

Hoyt Bangs, a Raleigh native and landscape designer is owner of WaterWise Garden Design. You may reach him at

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