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Old 28-08-2003, 05:42 PM
Earl Buchan
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Default Fall planting: Four hot tips to help you plan

The Plant Man column
for publication week of 08/31/03 - 09/06/03
(767 words)

The Plant Man
by Steve Jones

Fall planting: Four hot tips to help you plan

Yeehah! It's fall planting season! Or at least it's fall BUYING season; the
time when you buy the plants for fall planting. This is always an exciting
time... choosing the plants and shrubs that will give you so much pleasure
next season and for many seasons to come.

So much to think about! So much to choose from!

Don't let it get you down. This is meant to be fun, remember? To make your
fall planting plans a little easier, I'm giving you a list of four pointers
to help you choose the plants that are right for you and your landscape.

# 1. Budget. Before you start shopping for your fall planting, try to get
at least a rough budget in your mind: a dollar amount that should be
sufficient to get the job done without over-reaching your resources.

If this is the first year (or the first in quite a while) that you will be
making a real effort to add to your landscape you will need to be looking at
spending towards the top limit of your budget. "Maintenance" years
replacing, filling in, adding will obviously make a much smaller dent in
your piggy bank.

A good tip from professional landscapers: Select a small number of
extravagant plants and fill in with more economical varieties such as
Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides), a showy ornamental grass with
rose-colored flower spikes, that can cover a fairly large area at a
reasonably low price.

# 2. Growing conditions. First of all, be aware of where you are in the
plant hardiness zone map. This map consists of eleven zones in the United
States showing different climate conditions. This will help you select
plants that are most likely to thrive in your area. If you are unsure of
your zone or need some guidance, please drop me a line at
and I'll be happy to help.

I know that many people are disappointed when they have their heart set on a
particular plant but it fails to do well once it has been added to their
landscape. In all probability, the conditions just weren't suitable. First
of all, get to know your soil type! You can read articles devoted to this
subject at my web site where you can find archived
columns under "The Plant Man" heading. If a plant prefers, say, slightly
acidic sandy soil and your landscape consists of slightly alkaline clay
soil, the plant is unlikely to thrive without quite a bit of work on your

# 3. Ease of Care. The choice is yours. For some people, there is nothing
more satisfying than getting soil under their fingernails. But for others,
the pleasure is in simply looking at their trees and shrubs without
investing a great deal of time in "plant maintenance".

So which one are you? If you're a member of the low-maintenance club,
consider some crabapple trees. Look for varieties such as Robinson, Spring
Snow and Centurion. If you're looking for an easy-care but attractive
backdrop for perennials, you should try Lady Fern (Athyrium felix-feminand)
or Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis). And if you're looking for hardy plants
that don't require a lot of TLC, there's always ivy, forsythia and Arnold's
Red Honeysuckle.

# 4. Scale. If you have ever visited any of the world's great gardens, you
might have been struck by an impression that every tree and every shrub
seemed to be perfectly suited to the location in which it was planted. It's
a matter of scale.

Simply put, a small lot will be overpowered by one or two vast oak trees,
whereas a wide-open and flat terrain will look even wider open and flatter
when adorned with dozens of small, spindly trees or shrubs that have been
widely spaced. Objective: pick trees and shrubs that will suit the scale of
your landscape.

For example. An excellent choice for a small yard or garden would be the
"Forest Pansy" Red Bud. It's a spectacular ornamental tree that rarely grows
taller than about twenty feet.

You also need to think "scale" when planning the juxtaposition of different
plants. You'll want to select taller plants for the rear of a bed, perhaps
close to a wall or fence, scaling down to smaller plants in the foreground.

And don't forget to have FUN!

The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and
landscaping to and for resources and additional
information, including archived columns, visit where you
can also subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter.

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