plant characteristics -

Beverly Erlebacher bae at
Fri Feb 9 18:12:38 EST 2001

In article <RQKg6.72432$R5.3671101 at>,
Magnani <bcmagnani at> wrote:
>My wife and I are starting our backyard landscaping, and we want to select
>our own plants rather than be force fed plants by our contractor.  Are there
>any sites that give plant characteristics, growth rates, etc, and companion
>plants etc........we are trying to get a Mediterranean feel to the design.
>We live in zone 9, and will likely plant fruitless olives (Swan Hill?) as a
>portion.........but it is wide open after that.....
>Thanks in advance for any direction, advice and or sites for

Check your public library - there are lots of books on gardening and
landscaping.  Also, look around your area and see what other people have
planted.  This should give you an idea what will grow well in your climate.
Note, anything that does well in a somewhat neglected garden is likely to
be unaffected by the local pests and diseases.  If there's a botanical
garden or arboretum or agricultural experiment station in your area, or
historic houses open to the public you can get more ideas there.  Public
parks and older neighborhoods are also a source of good ideas, as well 
as examples of what not to do!

If you aren't in a hurry, you can get a lot of pleasure by growing your
own plants from cuttings, divisions and seeds.  Gardeners tend to be happy
to talk about their gardens and share plant material.  If you walk around
on weekends or summer evenings and strike up a conversation with people
working in their gardens you will not only get a lot of good practical
information, but may also get gifts of plant material.  I get rid of surplus
plants that way myself!

Garden clubs and their plant sales are another source of interesting plants.
Note that whatever does *really* well tends to show up at plant sales.  This
is a good way to fill up your borders while you are trying to decide what
else to plant.  Clubs devoted to a particular group of plants, such as irises
or daylilies, often have plant sales too.  Here too is where you luck into
the best adapted varieties for your area, the ones that gardeners end up with
too much of.  These people are often into getting the latest and greatest
varieties, so they are constantly clearing out older ones.

Btw, a garden is an open-ended project.  It can be a good idea to live
in your house through the cycle of seasons before you decide what you want
to see when you look out the window or when you come home.  Putting a tree
in the wrong place will annoy you for a long time!  This also gives you a
chance to see how various plants that interest you look at different times
of the year, and how sunlight is distributed on your garden through the

Oh, one more thing - the most common error do-it-yourself landscapers make
is to plant trees and shrubs too close to each other or to buildings, paths,
overhead wires, etc.  It's hard to visualize just how big that skinny little
plant is going to be in 10 or 15 years, but if you don't you'll regret it!
If things look too sparse while the trees and shrubs are small, fill in 
with faster growing plants that you can remove when they start to get 
crowded or shaded out.  If you can see a mature specimen of the plant you
are interested in, as above, it will be easier to imagine it in your garden.

I hope you find these ideas helpful.  Just take your time, don't be afraid
to make mistakes, and you will get a lot of enjoyment out of developing
your garden.

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