Friday, January 21, 2011

I can resist everything except temptation

With the current condition of our winter gardens, it is easy to be seduced by photos of all of the colorful, exotic beauties that are gracing the pages of our seed and garden catalogs and websites. But before we pull out our credit cards and start placing our orders for spring planting, perhaps we should revisit our post from way back in July 2010 called the 12 Relationship Rules for Gardeners.

Several of the "Relationship Rules" mentioned in that post remind us of the importance of choosing plants that are appropriate to our planting zone and site conditions. Choosing plants that don't fit our site conditions is a waste of money and usually leads to disappointment. Or as I said in that previous post:

"If you want to be in a relationship with sweet things that you aren’t really compatible with just because they are beautiful, it might work but it is going to require a lot of effort. Probably neither one of you will ever be completely happy." 

The problem is, if you haven't already taken a site survey and gotten to know your landscape on a personal level, winter is not really the best time to do so. Sun, shade and water conditions are all different now then they will be a few months from now. However, this post Work With Mother Nature, Not Against Her, provides some guidelines for getting started. And you can also go ahead and learn a little bit more about your site by getting a pre-season soil test.

Are there other steps that can be taken to insure that you aren't seduced into unhappy or unhealthy gardening relationships? Sure! There are hundreds of on-line dating sites that allow people to learn a lot about their prospective partners before they ever meet them face to face. And there are just as many websites that help you to get to know your plants before you invest too much time and money in them.

Most seed and garden catalogs (and websites) provide some level of information about the needs of the species that they have for sale. The information can be as limited as just the USDA hardiness zone or it can contain uncertain terms such as "partial sun". Neither of these limited bits of information is really that useful. After all, Albuquerque, New Mexico and Washington, DC are in the same USDA hardiness zone. That doesn't mean that the same plants will necessarily thrive in both locations.

Other companies provide very detailed information about the plants, including light, moisture and soil conditions, as well as whether they attract certain forms of wildlife, such as hummingbirds or butterflies.

In any case, cold winter nights are the perfect time to do a little research about plant choices for your yard. So here are some gardening resources for learning about local plants. Think of them as dating sites for your garden - the perfect places to find your Perfect Plant Match and create more Harmony in the garden.

Recommended Plants for the Washington DC Area
Native Plant Resources for Maryland
Wildflowers Native to Maryland
Recommended Native Plant Species - select your region
National Gardening Association PlantFinder
Plant Information Online

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