Think before you plant

A toad lilly
A toad lilly

Have you ever gone home after purchasing some wonderful new plant only to walk around the garden looking for a suitable spot in which to plant it? Go on, admit it!

Many of our plant purchases are impulse buys. The garden centres know this – relying on us to be tempted by a colourful display.

Plants in bloom will sell. Simple. They don’t need fancy, colourful packaging to make them walk off the shelves.

So did we need that plant? Probably not!

Do we know where we are going to plant it? Probably not – but over there, in that little space between the lupins and the hebe will do for now....we can always move it later ...

Or do you go out with the intention to purchase a plant for a particular that will be the right size/colour/shape for that empty spot, enhanced by the plants around it?

And more importantly, will the plant like it there – do the soil conditions suit it, will it have the right amount of sun, or shade...?

The vast array of plants available today is amazing! Plants from all over the world, from all sorts of climates and habitats. All very tempting! But also very confusing, particularly for the novice gardener.

They will, most likely, have a label on them. Often multi-lingual – pictorial – with what may look like clip art indicating, by means of a red cross through a knife and fork, meaning that they are not to be eaten!

Wording such as ‘protect from frost’, can be quite misleading – does this mean that we may as well let it die in the autumn, or does it need a heated greenhouse to get it through a winter?

If so, do we bother getting it if we can’t offer it this luxury? Will a thick layer of bark mulch do?

If you don’t know – ask! Explain where you want a plant for; sun or shade, dry soil or moist. The staff at any decent garden centre will be able to help you with this.

Then, when you know what will be happy in that situation, choose the plant that you feel will look best there. Not the other way around.

Lilies and Lavenders like sun. Hostas and Acers are far happier in partial shade. A Lavender in the shade will be unhappy, as will a Hosta in a dry, sunny spot.

They may take a while to die, but you have subjected them to a very sad existence.

You won’t get prosecuted for it (there is no RSPCP) but you will have wasted your money.

How much space do you have for it to grow? It may look good there this year, maybe next – but it will be such a shame to have to cut it down, or dig it out, in a few years’ time, when it gets too large for the space you’ve chosen.

Monkey Puzzle trees (marmite plants – love them or hate them) are rarely given the space they need, and, no, you can’t trim them back.

There is no easy way to learn which plants will thrive in any particular location – but look in the gardens and parks of your area to see what is growing well.

Use the internet to see what will grow in your ‘problem spot’ (the Royal Horticultural Society website is good for this). Join a local gardening club, or enrol on an RHS course.

Gardening – as a skill, a profession, a hobby for all ages – is far more enjoyable when you are not responsible for the slow death of the plants in your care.