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Practical Shrubbery

botanical garden secrets

I just visited the homes of two shut-ins to deliver flowers. There were similar things I noticed at each house. I had to practically climb around overgrown shrubbery to get to the door. There were weeds protruding from cracks in the pavement. Foliage obscured all the windows. There was a noticeable difference between the landscapes of the shut-ins and the other houses nearby. For shut-ins it is impractical to match the level of maintenance required to keep up a yard, without lots of help from others.

The same issues apply to us when we compare the quality of our residential landscape and the horticultural displays at a botanical garden. For us, it is impractical to match the level of maintenance required for professionally landscaped gardens. Botanical gardens not only have tons more people helping maintain their properties, their people are all trained in horticulture. What can be done to match that quality without breaking the bank? Don’t despair. Your landscape can rival those of the professionals. I’ll share a few trade secrets with you. 

The Essentials

I used to think it was possible to leave out one or two cultural requirements for plants and still see a small measure of success in gardening. Trust me! You cannot leave out any of the essentials. The soil needs to be good, the moisture needs to be fairly constant, nutrients need to be added, and the ground surface must be kept weed-free. Scrimping on any of these four things is not an option, if you want a beautiful yard.

Choose Wisely

Choosing the right plants for the situation puts you way ahead of the average landscape, and helps avoid a lot of energy-draining work on the long term maintenance schedule. Do a little research before purchasing new plants. Find out which species tolerate the challenges of your site. Pick vigorous survivors that don’t need a lot of pruning. Get to know the mature height of anything you plant. There are shrubs that laugh at heavy clay. Others are undaunted by drought. Some even enjoy occasional wet feet. Check for shade, pest, humidity, and disease tolerance. Find out which plants can tolerate temperatures above ninety-five degrees, if you live in the south. Match your new plants with the demands your landscape will place on them.

Remove the Dead Wood

Evaluate existing conditions on your site. Your goal is to equal the beauty of a botanical garden, so reduce your obstacles to that end. Plants that are prone to disease and leaf spot need to be removed. Spraying several times each year with chemicals to prevent fungal diseases is not cost-efficient for most homeowners.

Plants that require constant pruning need to go, too. Either take them out, roots and all, or prune them into miniature trees to open up obscured windows. From experience I can tell you, the banished plants will be happily forgotten. You are not being frugal by allowing them to dominate your outdoor maintenance time.

Plant removal is a bear of a task! It only needs to be done once, though. Keep telling yourself you are reducing time for tedious chores for years to come. Gain more for the fun aspects of gardening by dumping the problem plants.

Know Your Enemy

Get to know the weeds in your yard. You can’t eliminate them all at once with a magic backpack sprayer and a single application of nuclear chemicals. It won’t work. They are too smart for that. Each weed uses their special, super skills to procreate and bully all the pretty plants you are trying to keep alive. They each have their weaknesses, though. If you learn them, you can practice “strategery” to effectively destroy them.

Weeds can be overwhelming when faced all at once. Decide on one weed species per year to eradicate. Become an expert on that weed. Target it with all your resources, including hand-pulling before it can go to seed. After a few years of battle, the war on weeds will be manageable and less taxing on your beautification resources.

Cover the Ground

Botanical gardens lose lots of plants every year, but they budget for replacements. You should do the same. Don’t automatically replace dead plants with the same species. The dearly departed dead plants may not have liked the soil or the location. The reasons can be random. Some plants simply don’t like the neighborhood. Try to discover why the plant died, and plant a new one better suited to the microenvironment. Fill in all the empty space with either vegetation or an organic mulch to prevent opportunistic weeds from sprouting.

Provide Year-round Excitement

Once you have shrunk the taxing labor issues with your yard, you can focus on design. Add new plants with eye-popping color combinations, dramatic foliage textural contrasts, seasonal interest, and exciting shapes and forms. Before you know it, you will be strolling through a botanical garden of your very own.

Find more tips at Landscape Consultants HQ.

Botanical Gardens vs. the Rest of Us