Plant Selection (II)

Appropriate plant selection

A number of issues need to be taken into consideration when selecting plants for your water-conserving garden.  In addition to selecting drought tolerant plants, select plants that are compatible with the design of your landscape and are well suited to your site and local environment.  It is important to choose plants that can tolerate the site's soil type and light levels.  For example, although junipers are extremely drought tolerant, they cannot tolerate wet soils or heavy shade.

Other important factors to consider when selecting plants for your garden include a plant’s hardiness, which is its resistance to frost, and a plant’s growth rate.  Slow-growing plants might require less maintenance (such as pruning and sheathing) than fast growing ones, but take considerable time to reach their desired size.

Mature size and form also will help you to determine which plants are best suited for your landscape.  Consider if the plant will remain in scale with the rest of the landscape as it matures, and if it will compete with other plants for space, nutrients, and water.

A plant with striking form and/or showy flowers can add interest and color to the landscape.  Accent plants are plants with special characteristics that attract attention due to their flowering color, leaf texture, height, or form, and usually are used to provide a focal point to a particular grouping of plants.

Consider if a plant’s leaf texture is fine, medium, or coarse and if it combines well with adjacent plants.  Coarse-textured plants (such as….) generally have large leaves and are characterized by an informal feel.  They serve to provide clear focal points in the landscape.  Medium-textured plants (such as….) are less transparent and have a stronger silhouette than coarse-textured plants.  They serve to unify a composition and to provide a link between coarse and fine-textured plants.  Fine-textured plants (such as….) have small leaves, thin branches and twigs, and/or tight dense habit of growth.  They provide a soft and delicate look to the landscape, and also provide a neutral background for other plants.

Color is an easily discernable visual quality in plants that is clearly present in their foliage, flower, fruit, twigs, branches, and trunk bark.  Dark colors portray a quiet, peaceful feeling, and give a sense of solidity and weight, while bright colors convey a light cheerful atmosphere.  Flower color can be used as an accent that provides contrast to the green summer foliage.  Use plants with different flowering seasons so that your garden is in bloom throughout the year.

Study if the plant is suitable for its intended location and purpose.  For example, a large plant or tree in front of a window facing a pleasant view might block that view.  On the other hand, a large plant or tree in front of a west-facing window will provide protection from the harsh afternoon summer sun.           

When selecting plants, plan for combinations of plants based on their design characteristics such as size, texture, color, and form.  As you begin to select and introduce plants into your landscape, situate them where they can most effectively perform their intended functions, while taking care to group plants of similar water requirements together.

Aeonium arboreum (Schwarzkopf): a drought tolerant succulent; acts as accent plant; effective in rock gardens and in pots; has a sculptural quality.  (image credit: Osman Akoz)

Aeonium arboreum (Schwarzkopf): a drought tolerant succulent; acts as accent plant; effective in rock gardens and in pots; has a sculptural quality.  (image credit: Osman Akoz)

 
Medium-textured plants such as Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry) serve to unify a composition and to provide a link between coarse and fine-textured plants.  Grown for its crimson foliage and arching branches, Berberis thunbergii can be used as a shrub or groundcover. (image credit: Osman Akoz)

Medium-textured plants such as Berberis thunbergii (Japanese Barberry) serve to unify a composition and to provide a link between coarse and fine-textured plants.  Grown for its crimson foliage and arching branches, Berberis thunbergii can be used as a shrub or groundcover. (image credit: Osman Akoz)

Fine-textured plants such as Artemisia arborescens (Faith Raven) Provide a soft and delicate feel to the landscape, and also provide neutral background for other plants.  Grown for it’s delicate silver foliage; Artemisia arborescens is good in borders, especially with pink and lavender hues. (image credit: Osman Akoz

Fine-textured plants such as Artemisia arborescens (Faith Raven) Provide a soft and delicate feel to the landscape, and also provide neutral background for other plants.  Grown for it’s delicate silver foliage; Artemisia arborescens is good in borders, especially with pink and lavender hues. (image credit: Osman Akoz

Coarse-textured plants such as Echeveria imbracata (Hen and Chickens) serve to provide clear focal points in the landscape.  Grown for its silver foliage Echeveria imbracata is effective in rock gardens or in pots. (image credit: Osman Akoz)

Coarse-textured plants such as Echeveria imbracata (Hen and Chickens) serve to provide clear focal points in the landscape.  Grown for its silver foliage Echeveria imbracata is effective in rock gardens or in pots. (image credit: Osman Akoz)