I imagine like many who have set themselves a lengthy challenge, whether of time or distance, you ‘hit a wall’ of questioning. Is it worth it? Will I manage it? Am I ever going to get there? Honestly, there were times when I really disliked mine! Such a simple thing became quite burdensome when other tasks pressed in for my attention. But I am sure the Benefits of a Garden Challenge will be felt in the garden for years to come.
The Result of a Year-long Challenge
As much of my Garden had already been planted up prior to the start of my Garden Photo Challenge, there wasn’t an huge amount of room to add more plants. There certainly isn’t room to add any more trees, unless I need to replace one. The only other type of relatively pemanent planting would be the addition of Bulbs. You can read how I go about choosing those in the post 8 Tips for Choosing Spring Bulbs
However, I found one of the Benefits of a Garden Challenge is to make carefully considered plant choices rather than spontaneous purchases of whatever is in flower at the Garden Centre. Those cunningly beautiful displays near the entrance or alongside the pathway to the Tills are the equivalent of the sweetie racks at the Checkout!
How to Choose Plants for Your Garden
Before purchasing any plants, stop and consider how much ‘value’ it will bring to your garden, by asking the following questions:-
- How big does the plant grow? Will I have room for it?
- Has the plant an interesting shape? Will it add structure to the Garden?
- Does the plant have interesting bark texture or colour?
- Will it bear fruit or seed pods?
- Is the leaf an interesting shape or colour? Evergreen? (for year-round interest) or Deciduous? (what colour will it turn in the Autumn?)
- What colour and shape are the flowers? Will it flower when there isn’t much else to see?
- Is the plant/flower scented?
- And finally, checking the growing requirements:- Preferred Soil type, Sun/Shade loving and Soil moisture are similar to those found in your garden
These are all questions we should be asking whenever we are considering additions to our gardens, especially for those of us with limited space. I like my plants to work ‘hard’ within the layout of my garden. On the whole, if a plant is to ‘pass the test’ it must have more than one attribute.
For example the Japanese Acer here in my garden is:-
- A specimen tree – it stands out as a feature, it is a focal point. It gives structure to the Garden, even in Winter
- The bark has an interesting pattern
- The leaves are palmate ie has fingers, which is a fascinating shape. The leaves change colour from when they first unfurl to maturity, and then in the Autumn turn a fiery red, extending the Season of Colour
- Also the seeds are winged, and hang in little bundles
You can read how the Garden is designed around this tree in the post 6 Small Garden Design Lessons
By following a Challenge such as the one I set myself, you will ‘train’ yourself to observe your garden; both the design structure and the planting, more closely. Inspecting your Plants rather than just admiring them en masse, on a regular basis means you will spot pests problems more quickly. Enabling you to deal with a problem before it becomes a crisis.
Will You Take on the Challenge?
It doesn’t need to be public – you don’t have to post it onto Instagram. It doesn’t even need to be daily but try it weekly, perhaps fortnightly. Walk around your garden with notebook and or Camera/Phone in hand. Jot down the things you need to do such as:-
- Plants that need attention,
- Plants to divide when the time is right
- Gaps in the planting that ‘need’ to be filled
- Planting that needs rearranging as some grow better than anticipated
If you photograph your Garden through the year you will obtain a better understanding not only of the peak time of your Garden (as a whole as well as in different areas) but also the quiet season. Then you too will reap the Benefits of a Garden Challenge. You will have the information to hand of when, and where, you could make changes, however subtle, to maximise the interest of your whole plot.