When I was studying landscaping a couple of decades ago, I spent hours in the library, poring over gardening books, and paging through landscape architecture and gardening magazines, admiring the beautiful, mainly US or UK gardens. I couldn't wait for my chance to create similarly breathtaking gardens.
Right plant, right place
My first attempts at landscaping, (that were fortunately in my mothers garden) failed dismally. The plants that I had used, either died or grew so big that we lost pets inside them. This left me wondering whether I had made the wrong choice in vocation, and I'm sure must have caused my mother to wonder whether she had just wasted a couple of years of tuition on me.
But slowly it dawned on me that the old garden maxim "right plant, right place" were words to live by. Just because something looks amazing elsewhere doesn't necessarily mean that it will suit the situation that I'm working with.
I also began to realise the deception that is inherent in almost all gardening books and magazines. It is the job of publications to sell magazines and books. The best way to do this, is to showcase beautiful gardens in all their splendour. Nobody wants to buy a magazine that shows dry, colourless gardens or gardens that have been pruned back to make way for new growth. These gardens are photographed during the 3-4 week period in an entire year, that they are at their best. In many cases, the planting that you see is entirely temporary, as annuals are planted in their abundance. Page through any gardening magazine, and you will see the majority of the plants on display are pretty, yet short-lived annuals. This creates an unrealistic expectation on the part of the casual observer, which when it comes time to garden leaves them frustrated or disappointed.
The garden industry through television and magazines, whilst creating a sense of excitement about the potential for beauty in your back yard, has also created a rod for its own back. I can't tell you how many people I've known through the years, that are keen to get stuck into the garden, but give up after the reality sinks in.
Don't be suckered
So before you get started with your garden, figure out whether your expectations have been over inflated, by looking around you at the best gardens in your neighbourhood. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do they consistently look that way?
- What plants have they used?
- What kind of soil have they got? Is it the same as mine?
- Do they regularly compost and water?
- Have they got an irrigation system in place?
- What are my realistic time commitments and abilities?
Finally, do some research before you buy your plants from the nursery. Have a plan in mind, and plant for the long term. Go with a list of plants that grow well in your area, don't get suckered in by the pretty things that are flowering at the entrance to the nursery because almost by the time you get home, the flowers will be gone.
Remember, beauty is fleeting so don't just plant pretty. Be pretty practical too.