It helps to know your plants' needs

When the container that held our Encore azalea for about two years looked like it would burst at the seams, we knew it was time to find the beautiful specimen a permanent home. The task, however, was easier said than done, for just about all the available sites in our garden did not seem to fit the light requirements of an azalea, while the locations that would have suited its needs were already taken.

Azaleas, as we know, prefer to be grown in partial shade; so, desperate as we were, the only option we found ourselves left with was to dig up an existing clump of a perennial to make room for the potted azalea. Interestingly, sacrificing the perennial to get the shaded location led to a rather positive outcome, as a fair amount of the neighboring vegetation is made of azaleas and camellias, which like acidic soil in addition to, of course, the shade. Therefore, my job of taking care of this portion of the garden is for sure simplified, including applying the appropriate fertilizer when the time is right.

Although not always practical, it is of great help to a gardener to group together annuals, vegetables and perennials with similar cultural requirements, such as sun or shade, drought resistance and pH of the soil. For instance, plants that like to be watered fairly often might be difficult to maintain if grown in the vicinity of those that do not. Incidentally, it increases the efficiency of a gardener substantially to grow plants that require frequent irrigation close to the source of water so watering is not such a chore.

For successful gardening, it is a fact that location is just as crucial as finding the right plant; I don’t do it much now, but I remember the time when I would spend quite a bit of time in the yard moving plants around until the right site was located. Therefore, it is a good idea to refer to a book, preferably a local one, about the cultural requirements of a plant before yielding to temptation upon seeing one. One such user-friendly book that comes to mind is co-authored by our very own Richard Nunnally and titled Best Garden Plants for Virginia. Each featured plant is accompanied by a precise and comprehensive profile, as well as a color illustration to help the reader plan and take care of the garden.

GITA'S TIP OF THE MONTH

Select flowering plants with more unopened buds than open flowers to be able to watch the buds unfold into blooms and thus extend the flowering period.

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