Actually, I don’t even know what a master plants person is. I haven’t yet come across someone who can always get plants to do what they want. But I do know a lot of people with a great deal of plant knowledge and I asked them how they got so wise in the way of plants? Aside from the years of hands on experience, they all shared one other tidbit of wisdom – they learned 1 plant at a time.
To really learn about the likes and hassles of a plant, you need to pay close attention to it for a whole season. Of course you’ll still need to observe it for years to come and see how it adjusts to different conditions, but by the end of an entire season of observation, you should be fairly familiar with it and you won’t need to focus quite so intently on it in future seasons.
One Plant? Are You Kidding Me?
I’m not suggesting you develop a case of onesies in the garden. Having a smattering of single plants not only makes for a bad design, it defeats the purpose of focusing on an individual plant. Your attention will be all over the place.
Instead, choose 1 or 2 new plants to grow each season and make a study of them. Grow several of each and place them around your garden, in different conditions. See how they react to heat, rain, drought, deer, beetles and whatever else comes their way. With only a couple of new plants to stay focused on, you’ll be surprised how quickly you learn their strengths and foibles.
This is not to say you can’t grow as many plants as you like, just keep your main focus on your “Plant(s) of the Year”. You’ll be surprised at how much faster your plant knowledge accumulates when you don’t scatter your energy and your thoughts, I promise. The more you learn, the more
Most of us become enamored of some new bauble plant every year. They certainly dangle enough of them in front of us at nurseries and in magazines. However in some cases you may become obsessed with a particular plant and start collecting every salvia, or primrose or hot pepper you can find. But even when you specialize in one species, you need to take it slowly and add 1 or 2 new varieties at a time. Lately I’ve been fascinated with Blue Star, (Amsonia sp.). I started with willow blue star (Amsonia tabernaemontana), which I got at a local nursery specializing in native plants. I wasn’t all that thrilled with it. In fact, I thought I’d given it away, twice, but it keeps coming back.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for it, I still kept hearing that this was a wonderful plant. Then I saw photos of different species of that were much snazzier than mine and I though, hmm, maybe I haven’t given Amsonia a chance.
So last year I bought Amsonia White Flower Farm Selection. Very pretty flowers, but slow to establish. This year it didn’t show up until May, but now it looks much happier than last year. Why not add some more. This year it was Arkansa blue star, (Amsonia hubrichtii). This is the one I originally wanted, but it’s a south-central U.S. native and hard to find in the northeast. (Funnily enough, I found it at the New England Wildflower Society.) Along with it’s blue spring flowers and feathery foliage, it is supposed to put on a fantastic fall golden glow.
So what have I learned? These are subtle plants. They can blend with other plants and suddenly jump out with a color or a texture no other plant offers. They are indifferent to weather and water. They don’t bloom a long time, but they bloom at a time when I need some blue in the garden. They have nice seed pods, but leaving them on can cause the plants to flop open. Bottom line, I am getting 3 seasons of interest, so I’m going to continue to let them grow.
Since these are perennials, it will take a few years to really see how they do in my garden, whether they are short lived or overly enthusiastic, but in the meantime, I have some enchanting blue flowers to enjoy.
It’s the way of the turtle. If you go slowly and deliberately, you will get where you want to be as a gardener without having to make the same mistakes over and over again.