Need or Want?

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It’s catalog time! A fun way to spend a blustery afternoon is to curl up with a hot drink and peruse the latest seed and mail-order plant catalogs. My all time favorite is high Country Gardens (they also have a great web site). It’s great to imagine all the beautiful plant combinations that could be gracing your garden next summer, but before you actually place the order and write your check you might want to stop and consider just why you are buying a new plant. The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Plant Smart! Six Steps to Choosing Perfect Plants

There are two basic motives for buying a plant: need and want. What’s the difference?
Plants that you need are those that are used architecturally to solve problems in the landscape. Plants that you want are those that are used as decoration in the landscape. If you can combine these two motives and select a plant that is both useful and decorative you will be more satisfied with your purchase.

Here are some examples of architectural uses of plants:
To control environmental factors such as sun, wind, or noise. This is all about creating a comfortable space where you can enjoy being outdoors in any season.
To create privacy. Nobody wants to live in a fishbowl! Your outdoor space should be your place to get away.
To enhance or screen views. Framing an extended view will expand your vista and enlarge your visual space, allowing you to take advantage of “borrowed” landscapes. Partially screening a view can help develop a sense of mystery to the landscape and draw people into it. And, of course, completely screening an ugly view just makes sense!
To control soil erosion. Gentle slopes may be stabilized by using appropriate plants to hold the soil.
To direct traffic or circulation. Keep people or pets where you want them with strategic plant placement.
Almost everyone has to deal with at least one of these issues in their landscape. Plants can be used individually or in combinations as beautiful, economical solutions.

Here are some examples of decorative uses of plants:
To create “curb appeal” for your home. Set the stage for a warm welcome for yourself and your guests. Maintain and/or enhance the value of your real estate.
To add complexity to existing plantings. Layers of a variety of plantings, as opposed to a single row of plants, will give you that lush, magazine or resort look.
To add new color, texture, or fragrance to a specific location in your landscape. Sometimes just a single, well chosen plant will add new pizzazz to an existing planting.
To attract wildlife, birds or butterflies. Bring your garden to life with movement, song and color.

The desire to beautify our surroundings and make a personal imprint on the land is a very strong part of human nature. So have fun with catalog season but remember to Plant Smart!

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