Archives for August 2012

Plant Picking Tools – 3 great ways to help you choose the right plants for your garden

Choosing the right garden plants can be quite tricky, in part because of the sheer range that’s available in most garden centres these days. All sorts of plants from the world over can be brought home and planted. Trouble is the conditions a plant gets in its native habitat aren’t necessarily what you have in your back garden.

If you want an easy life, i.e. one that doesn’t involve many hours of tending to your plants’ every need then it’s better to choose plants that will grow easily in your environment and you won’t need to do too much on the care side. ‘Plant and Go’, as I like to call it. The only exception to my ‘Plant and Go’ philosophy is watering. Even choosing plants that are suited to your environment will require some additional watering to get them established for the first year or two.

So Just How Do You Choose The Right Plants For Your Garden?

Good question, glad you asked. To enable you do just that here are 3 great plant picking tools to help you out. The first is for those people who like to plan ahead before they go off shopping. So, if you like to be well-organised this one is for you!

Option 1 – Useful If You’re Planning Ahead

The wonderful thing about this software is it’s completely free and very easy to use and has a database with over 3,700 plants and over 10,500 photographs to help with plant identification.

A while back, I did a quick video on how to use it and you can see that here: Plant picking tool video

If you’re more of an impulse plant buyer then my next pick is perfect to help you avoid those ‘plant candies’ the garden centres offer, or at least if you do succumb you can the pick plants will survive in the conditions you have in your garden.

Option 2 – Great if You Need Information on the Go!

This is an App for the iPhone, iPad or iPod called the Joy of Plants.

It does everything the last example does but you will need to purchase the App, it’s £4.99 and is packed with nearly 7000 plants. You can search on the go and the most wonderful part of this app is you don’t have to have internet connection to get it to work.

There’s a tiny image of each plant stored in the app, though you do need internet connection if you want to see the full screen images. Another advantage of the app is you can save your searches and compile shopping lists. It’s a very useful portable tool and has the ability to provide you with an enormous amount of information at your finger tips in a way that’s much more convenient that carrying lots of books round the garden centre.

Although it’s a UK based app, you can search by USDA hardiness zones which is very helpful for people living outside the UK. The only downside to the app for me is it’s not available for Android. Hopefully they will change that soon.

You can see a video demonstration of how it works here:

Option 3 – The Ultimate Tool in Plant Know-How…

OK, well, I would say this as I’ve created it but if you’d like to be able to look at a plant you’ve never seen before and just know by looking at its leaves what conditions it needs to grow in, without spending time  looking up every single plant you’re purchasing, then you’ll love the 5 Minute Plant Expert.

Basically, there are a whole load of cheats you can use when it comes to knowing what conditions a plant needs in order to survive. In short, looking at a plant’s leaves will tell you an enormous amount about what conditions it requires if you know what to look for.

Cunning Clues…

For instance, if a plant has grey or silver coloured leaves, it has to be in full sun. The grey colour cuts down on the amount of sunlight entering the leaf which helps protect it in very hot, sunny positions. So if you plant a silver leaf plant in the shade it won’t do well at all.

There are many more easy tell-tail signs you can look for and the 5 Minute Plant Expert will teach you all you need to know to become a ‘Plant Whisperer’. There’s a very helpful series of quick video tutorials on how to know what soil type you have and which plants will grow in your garden no matter where in the world you live.

But a word of warning…

BEFORE you go near a single plant, you really need to make sure you’ve got the overall design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page:

Garden Tour – La Concepción Jardin Botanico, Malaga, Spain

La Concepción garden is situated approximately 20 mins from Malaga airport (on the Seville road). I must admit, I’m not usually a big fan of botanic gardens as most tend to be an endless collection of plants that have seen better days, with very little thought to the layout of the garden.

I was pleasantly surprised with La Concepción, though. They had definitely thought about the design layout first, then added the plants. As regular readers here will know, I’m a great believer in doing things that way round. For me, 60% of what makes a garden ‘work’ is down to the design layout and shapes used.

When you pass through the entrance gates, you’re greeted with what can only be described as a carefully controlled jungle! Enormous trees and shrubs tower over the pathways, creating lots of well needed shade. A refreshing water system runs through various parts of the terraces.

When you reach the mid section of terraces, there is a choice to walk higher or around the side. We chose the side route as it was so hot. As a result, we didn’t see the entire garden, saving it for a cooler time of year!

What we did see, however, was vastly different from the jungle we’d been enveloped in at the start of our tour. As the jungle vanished behind us, we found ourselves walking through arid areas with succulents and pines with spectacular views of the lower section of garden and the outskirts of Malaga.

A Garden on Many Different Levels

Eventually we wound our way down to pool at the bottom of the garden. At this point, I would have happily jumped in it but having seen a snake in the previous pool, decided against it!

Design Takeaways

Although the garden is enormous, there are still plenty of design details that work well in any sized garden. What stood out for me with this garden is the way they had a mix of enclosed and open areas. They worked with the natural landscape to make the most of the good views and blocked out the less attractive parts with very dense planting.

About La Concepción Garden

The garden has been open to the public since 1994 after being taken over by Malaga City Council in 1990. There are over 2,500 tropical and sub-tropical plant species. It was originally created in 1855 and then expanded by the Echevarria family, who acquired the estate in 1911.

It’s well worth a visit and is fairly easy to find as long as you follow the signs for La Concepción Jardin Botanico not ‘Cuidad Jardin’ (which is a housing estate). There’s also a lovely little cafe that serves wonderful homemade lunches.

Other Gardens to Visit – Suggestions Please!

I’ll be continuing with my garden tour as soon as it gets cooler. Do you have any suggestions for me? Can be anywhere in Spain or Portugal. Next on my list is the cliff-top gardens of La Mina in Ronda. I’ll report back if it’s worth a visit.

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