Bob's Plant Selection Guide
There are six words that will help you create a garden that thrives. The words are right plant, right place, and right time.
Right Time: It can be very tempting to rush out into the garden and start planting after a few days of warm weather. This can be especially tempting after a long and cold winter. However, this is often, almost always a mistake.
I have found this out from experience. Put seeds in the ground before the soil is warm enough and they may not germinate. Put plants out before the night’s are warm enough and they may die. If you follow the instructions on the seed pack and know when the last day of frost occurs where you live, the odds of success increase significantly.
Here, in northern New Brunswick, spring may be a day away, but the ground is still frozen and I will not be planting any seeds until the last week of May at the earliest.
If you are planning to start seeds indoors, again read the instructions on the seed package. Seeds started too soon indoors will be ready to plant out before the outside conditions are ready to accept them.
Right Place: Seeds and seedlings must be planted where they will receive the amount of sunlight they require. You need to know your site; how much sunlight falls on it and you need to know whether the plants you are planning to plant require, full sun, partial sun or full shade, for example.
Right Plant: This is more complicated that it may seem. On one hand it refers to a plant that will do well in you climate zone and in the light and soil conditions of your garden bed.
On another you want to be leery of how well a plant may do when it is placed where the conditions are ideal for it to thrive. Some plants, when the conditions are ideal, will spread either through prolific seeding or by roots, far and wide when the conditions are just right. The first year the new addition may look great in the garden, adding colour and form to the overall design, in year two it may be staging a coup and by year three your garden is all one plant. This may eb a bit of an exaggeration, but let me give you an example.
A few years back when we were living in Northern Ontario we enjoyed taking drives in early summer to look at the fields of lupines, Lupinus arcticus, growing wild. The purples and pinks were brilliant. A neighbour decided to add a few plants to her garden and they looked fine in the border; however, lupines produce a large number of seeds and she left them all on the plants. In year two, the lupines had begun their take over, crowding out the other plants. When the seed pods formed, I lent her a hand in picking them and pulling many plants out by the roots.
Another example, Monarda didyma, (red) (purple) Monarda fistulosa, (pink) or bee balm is a personal favourite, however, I am not going to place this one in a garden bed, it grows just too fast and in a year or two will begin to shove other plants out.
Both bee balm and lupines are great plants if you are designing a meadow but if you are planning a flower garden, I would avoid them.
Get to know how a plant will reproduce when the conditions are ideal before planting it; if it is a plant you simply must have consider a container and gather the seeds.