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By Lyn Chimera

The term “right plant right place” is the standards for good gardening. Basically, it means you must know the conditions a plant needs (sun, type of soil, pH, amount water etc.) and match those needs to the conditions in your garden. This may sound simple, but it is often not part of the buying process. People see a plant in a friend’s garden, on a garden tour, or in the nursery that they like the looks of and buy it without regard to what conditions it requires. Please don’t make that mistake. Do your homework as to what your site conditions are and look for plants that will do well there.

Once you have the right plant in the right place, I’d like to also suggest that you give it the right CARE. The perfect plant for a certain location will not do well unless it’s cared for properly. How do you know what a specific plant needs to thrive? Do your homework or talk to the nursery professional where you buy your plants.

Some of the information you will need to know is how much sun a plant needs. Full sun is considered 6-8 hours/day. Part sun/part shade 3 -6 hours. Dappled light means some sunlight filters through and shade is very little to no direct sunlight.

The type of soil you have is also an important consideration. Heavy clay, sandy or loamy soil makes a difference as to what plants will thrive there. The pH is just as important if not more so. You can get a pH kit at any garden center or you can take a sample to the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Call the Master Gardener Hotline office 652-5400, ext 137 for information.

The amount of water a plant needs is equally important. The basic rule of thumb is an inch of rain/water per week for most plants. This is rather a simplification as some soils drain faster than others and plants in full sun tend to need more watering. It’s always best to grow plants with similar water, light and soil conditions together. This makes maintenance much easier. An easy way to check if your plants need water is to make a divot with a shovel down at least 6 inches (where the roots are) and see if it is moist or dry. Soil can be dry on the top few inches but moist enough where the root zone is. Moisture meters/probes are also useful for this.

There are many books that are excellent on how to care for plants. The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust I think is one of the best. Along with good general gardening practices from how to start a bed, how to plant, to what to do at the end of the season there is also an extensive listing of perennial plants along with information on their growing conditions, pruning and maintenance needs. The appendix is also an excellent reference list for perennials with specific maintenance requirements. This covers things like deer resistance, sun, water and soil needs, maintenance levels and more.

Another favorite is Armitage’s Garden Perennials by Allan M. Armitage. The first part of the book deals with soil preparation, weed control and other gardening maintenance issues. The bulk of the book covers a lengthy section on perennials with extensive information on each as to their care, use and maintenance needs. Armitage also includes his personal opinions on some of the plants. Part two covers listings of specific characteristics or purposes including natives, growth habits and flowering season.

A third book I often refer to is Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Perennials by Ellen Phillips and C Colston Burrell. It’s quite similar to the previous two but each covers some different plants and gardening how-to. All are good references.

Researching a plant online is another option. Be sure to go to a reputable site that gives good horticultural information not a “chat room”. Any “.edu” or Botanical Garden site is good along with NYSDEC, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Missouri Botanical Garden and Cornell Garden Information.

Remember, Right Plant, Right Place and Right CARE!

To contact me at Lessons from Nature, call 652-2432 or e-mail at lyn@lessonsfromnature.biz. I can e-mail or mail the gift certificates.