Written by Wendy Ball

Posted in Plants

Have you ever wandered around a nursery looking for just the right plant?

Perhaps your selection is swayed by attractive flowers, plants with unusual textures or more exotic specimens, each chosen to make a bold statement as you consider your project.  Plant selection is sometimes daunting, especially when there is an abundance of options and an array of displays and different species within the horticultural smorgasbord.

Engaging a savvy landscape designer short-circuits uncertainty when selecting plants for that important project. Their knowledge and experience provide invaluable advice when specifying and selecting plants that are horticulturally appropriate and aesthetically suitable.

Personality plus

It may be helpful to think of plants as having distinct personalities. It’s possible to even create a personality profile prior to visiting the nursery that encapsulates dreams and aspirations for your garden.  The goal is to make your plant purchasing rewarding, fun and sustainable.  Whilst impulse buying can be fun, some imaginative planning will stimulate ideas for your garden and assist in narrowing down your selection.

I want to explore plant attributes, to assist you in deciding what plant to choose for your unique situation. Before you create your ideal list, consider the broader vista along with the scope your ideal plants for your project.

For example, do you need:

  • Self-managed plants rather than plants requiring assistance in keeping within boundaries with constant pruning and care?;
  • Robust plants that are child/pet friendly rather than delicate specimens needing constant attention and protection? and
  • Team-player plants that collaborate together for a calming and combined influence or show-stopping ‘Prima Donna’ plants that compete and squabble for attention?

Plant attributes

When considering plants there are important horticultural traits or attributes that are helpful.

Plant forms

Given your garden is your tapestry or palette, consider the areas and spaces you will utilize for plant occupation.

As plants mature, their form is likely to be very different to what you have purchased in the pot.  Make sure you examine the plant’s ‘description’ tag; it usually has critical information concerning positioning, height, width and aspect.

Wide garden beds can allow for a multi-levelled approach which appears like tiered seating; low at the front and tall at the rear to create variety.

The form of the plant will partly determine the look and feel of the garden. Plants with strong architectural forms focus attention and make statements, whereas fine foliaged plants are visually less demanding.  Similarly, deciduous verses evergreen plants make a huge difference when considering the overall design of the garden

Plant habits

Every plant has a unique growth habit that should be considered in your plant selection. The growth habit can be varied as:

  • Prostrate (ground-hugging);
  • Upright;
  • Weeping;
  • Climbing; and
  • Clumping

These shapes all aid in choosing plants for your dream project.

Suitability – plants @ home

Every plant has a preferred environmental home.  Just as some people prefer the coast over the mountains, plants will grow best when they are happy in their natural environment.  In our Australian context, choosing a native is not specific enough.  What grows in Cairns will not thrive in Tassie, so understanding climatic conditions assists in choosing a plant suited to your garden.  For example:

  • Is your plant a sun-lover, or prefers the shade?
  • Does your plant like having occasional wet-feet or prefers a dry sandy place to put down its roots?
  • Is your plant natural clay-lover or passionate about gravel and rocky dirt?

The goal is to match your personal preferences with plants that align into your specific environment.

Behold the low maintenance garden

Regularly clients will request a low maintenance garden; this implies plants that don’t require much time or resources for them to grow well and flourish. However, many plants are just the opposite: thirsty (water guzzlers), hungry (for fertilisers) or they require long term medication (fungicides, insecticides). 

Consider the type of gardening you want to do, not just how you want the garden to look.  It’s important to consider how much margin you have to spend tending your chosen creation and the time you are willing to commit. The goal is to ensure your dream project is maintained with conviction and care

Whether choosing a feature plant or one to compliment an existing garden, understanding plant personalities will broaden your capacity to create a beautiful landscape. 

Happy planting.

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A word from our clients

"Wendy’s garden design has completely changed our lives. She has transformed our garden into an area of peace and relaxation. We now spend hours being outside enjoying the views she has created and also watching the wildlife that now regularly visit. The garden is beautiful whilst being low maintenance and gardening is also now a pleasure rather than a chore."

– Rolly & Kes, Epping North

"Wendy is creative, thorough and really takes the time to understand the client’s needs and is able to transform their ideas into practical and well-suited garden designs. I never hesitate to recommend Wendy’s services to clients. From a contractor’s point of view, I really love working on anything designed by Wendy! Her designs are well thought out, practical, interesting, and achievable! Easy to read, easy to interpret, easy to bring to life!"

– Dan, DSE Landscapes Pty Ltd

“We are delighted to recommend Embrace Landscape Design. Our block presented some particular difficulties, being steeply sloping and rocky. Wendy developed a design that complimented the natural bush setting with attractive planting and architectural elements. Her design worked within our budget and gave us a garden that has continued to grow in beauty since it was established. We have been complimented on its design many times and it has flourished through all weather conditions. Wendy’s advice throughout the process of building our garden was invaluable.”

– Scott & Suzanne Stanton, Menai

"I have had the opportunity to construct four landscape projects designed by Wendy Ball; two residential and two in a commercial setting. They included a combination of soft planting and hard landscape elements such as paved spaces, pergolas and arbours, large shade structures, pathways, water features and private reflective spaces. Wendy‘s creative capacity transformed dull spaces into something very special. As a builder, it was a pleasure to work with a landscape designer who had a pragmatic and flexible approach to resolving the inevitable challenges that arise during construction."

– Peter Cipollone, Builder

"We could not rate Wendy highly enough for her dedication and talent. She has gone above and beyond in designing our new front and backyard and nailed the brief."

– Daniel & Catherine, Illawong

“My wife and I were initially unaware of the council requirements regarding landscape plans. Wendy was very knowledgeable and led us through the whole process. Being able to sit down with Wendy and share our garden dreams proved to actually be fun, and seeing the result on paper really made it come to life.”
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Wendy Ball
32 Grove St Marrickville, NSW 2204
M: 0427 250 030
E: wendy@embracedesign.com.au

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