Listening to plants’ needs

Below the pine tree at the north end of the rock garden. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Below the pine tree at the north end of the rock garden. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
We’re often guilty of impulse plant buying, especially when they’re in full bloom and looking stunning. Home we go and during a lull in our busy lives plant the plant in the closest gap in our garden. Sometimes this has the happenstance of working; other times the plant struggles until we relent — do a bit of research and replant it where it will thrive.

Take a moment to stand back in your garden and contemplate. Reflect on what happens in the environment both above and below the ground. Sunlight and shade, prevailing wind, wet patches, dry spots, soil type, frost pockets and other microclimates all impact the growth of plants.

The bed in the photograph is situated below the pine tree at the north end of the rock garden in Dunedin Botanic Garden and is a prime example of planting to the conditions. Relentless all-day sun, exposure to wind from every angle, clay-based soil modified with compost and gravel, and to top it off a pine tree sucking up any moisture. Plants were not only chosen for their suitability for the collection and colourful flowers but for their ability to cope with the harsh conditions of the hot dry bank.

Next time you have a gap to fill or are confronted in the garden shop with a display of flawless flowering fuchsia — reverse it — rather than thinking about what takes your fancy, consider the plant and the conditions it would like.

Garden Life is produced by Dunedin Botanic Garden. For further information contact Robyn Abernethy.

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