‘I don’t know how to put together plants’

‘I don’t know plants’

‘Which plants are good for my project?

I bet that these not only were my doubts when I started my career, but I am pretty sure that they are yours too.

Knowing how to choose the right plants and how to put them together is one of those skills that unfortunately need a lot of time to acquire. I know that you can’t wait years to create your garden, so today I want to share with you some ‘tricks’ that will help you to choose the right plants for your project.

First of all, the right plant selection depends on various aspects:

  • the mood or atmosphere you want to achieve
  • the characteristics of the soil
  • how much sun your garden gets
  • the amount of water available for the irrigation
  • the amount of time (and money) you are willing to spend on the maintenance of your garden

We will explore all these aspects further in this blog, so don’t worry: for now I want you to read carefully because I am going to explain to you the four strategies I use the most to choose the plants for my projects.

Curious?

Let’s start!

1. LEARN FROM THE PROS

One of the first things I do when I have to write down a list of plants that I intend to use in one of my projects is to have a look at a fabulous website called GAP PHOTOS.

This website it’s an awesome collection of over 500,000 pictures of gardens and plants. There are two reasons why you should save this website among your favourites:

  1. A lot of gardens are designed by pros
  2. All the pictures are taken by professional photographers

This means that on this website you’ll only see the best gardens because the pictures are sold to magazines etc…I think that you’ve already understood that this website is much better than Pinterest 🙂

Gap photos is not only useful for researching inspirational pictures, but it also gives you a bunch of interesting and practical information.

Let’s start with your research.

Just type in the search bar the name of the city where you are living in and press ‘GO’: you’ll get all the pictures taken in your area.

In my case, I have digited ‘Melbourne’ and I have found 98 images.

This particular research not always work: in my case, for example I have found all the pictures that have ‘Melbourne’ as a tag, but as you can see a lot of them are just images of a temporary garden designed by an Australian designer and built for the Chelsea Flower Show.

Anyway, the magic happens when you touch the pictures with your cursor: a bigger version of the same picture shows up, including the caption with a loooooooot of useful information.

If you click on the selected picture you will be redirected to a page that contains a larger version of the image and its caption. Most of the time the caption describes exactly which plants are in the image.

If you are luckier than me and the search shows you pictures of plants and gardens taken in your area, you can easily build a list of plants that likely could grow in your garden. The pictures would also show you how Designers combine them together…a lot to learn from!

But we are not done yet! Why don’t we take a further look at more plant combinations?

Just write down in the search bar the name of one of the plants you found before, and press the ‘GO’ button…

you’ll find out all the pictures that show that plant.

In my case I searched for ‘Digitalis purpurea’. Let’s click on the second picture and see what comes up.

Now we know that we can plant Digitalis, Astilbe and Rhododendron together, and in June they look like in the picture!

Summarizing, Gap Photos is great for:

  • Finding inspirational pictures
  • Finding what grows in our area (sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t)
  • Finding how we can combine plants together
  • How plant combinations look through the seasons

As I said before, better than Pinterest, isn’it?

Last but not least, if you have a favourite designer, you can type the name in the search bar and you’ll find all the pictures of the works related to that name. Guess who is my favourite?

2. FOLLOW ME!

If you think that Instagram is just the Kardashian’s kingdom, well, you are wrong!

I use Instagram a lot, probably as much as I use Gap Photos because it’s litterally a gold mine when it comes to finding the right plants for one of my projects.

What can you find on Instagram?

  1. Garden designers
  2. Specialised nurseries
  3. Inspirational pictures

Garden and Landscape Designers

A lot of Garden and Landscape designers have their own Instagram profile (and so do I: have a look by clicking here) where they actively post the pictures of their works. On Google you could easily find all the professionals in your area, and then you could check if they have an Instagram profile. You could then connect with them and have a look at their pictures: a lot of times the name of the plants are specified. If not, because we all know that the ‘engagement’ is fundamental for the success of our Social Media strategies, just ask a question and most of the times you’ll see that the owner of the profile will reply. Don’t get offended if you don’t receive an answer: it doesn’t mean that we are all assholes 🙂

Specialised nurseries

You can’t imagine how many specialised nurseries have an Instagram profile! Because they usually post the pictures of the plants they grow, following their profile allows you to see which plants are available and most important in which period of the year they have interesting features (blossoming, change of colour etc.)

Combining these information coming from several profiles, you could virtually build for example a calendar that shows the sequence of blossomings for the species you are interested in.

Inspirational pictures

There are thousands of profiles that post inspirational pictures of gardens and plants. I don’t use Instagram for this purpose too much because, like Pinterest, the risk is to get lost and forget what you were looking for.

Last tip about Instagram and then I promise that I will change topic: checking the pictures is not the best from your phone; have a look at Statigram: it’s a free online service that allows you to check all the contents of Instagram on your computer, and you can use it whether you have an Instagram profile or not.

3. SEEING IS BELIEVING

If you are like me, I suppose that looking at the plants through the computer screen is not enough.

I am a ‘touching’ person: to understand better the plants I need to touch them. I want to know if they are smooth or hairy, if the leaves are thin or leathery. I want to know if touching them I feel good.

It’s like when you go on a date for the first time with someone you met online: only at this point you get to see if there is chemistry or not.

That’s why I like to go and visit specialized nurseries (not Garden Centers).

There are two main reasons why you should do the same:

  1. Who grows plants knows a lot of stuff about them because they see them every day. They know what they need, where is their favourite spot in the garden, which are the best combinations with other plants etc.
  2. Usually who works in this industry is keen to share what they know, especially if you show curiosity (and manners)

Be smart: find the specialised nurseries in your area, go there and learn from who has already made a lot of mistakes!

4. THE GRASS OF YOUR NEIGHBOUR IS ALWAYS GREENER.

…And if it’s not, just don’t plant what they have planted in their garden!

If you haven’t done it yet, I strongly recommend you to have a walk in your neighborhood and look at which plants your neighbours have in their garden.

Focus on what looks healthy and take notes because they will probably grow well in your garden too.

 

Well, these are my favorite techniques for chosing the plants for my projects. If you have some special tricks, why don’t you share them with us in the comments section below?