Originally created 11/27/98

It's about location

Landscape design is more than just digging a hole, planting a tree or shrub and letting it go: It's a science.

For ornamental horticulturist Jane Waldrop, misplaced plants are a pet peeve.

Ms. Waldrop, owner of The Greensmith, a landscape-design business, said homeowners should know what they're doing when deciding which plants to place where.

"It's one of those things I'm always harping on," she said.

"Before I do a job, I tell people to give me a plant list of what they want to plant. I look it over, and then I'll tell them what we can do."

Factors to consider when creating a landscape are location, height and color.

Soil type is an important consideration in the Aiken-Augusta area. Ms. Waldrop said the soil in adjacent Richmond and Columbia counties varies more than people realize. Richmond's soil is more sandy, and Columbia County has more heavy clay.

She said people in Columbia County want their yards to look like downtown Augusta and it's just not going to happen.

A common problem in plant placement -- and a lesson learned from experience in her own yard -- is placing tender plants in the wrong location. Dwarf nandinas growing against the front of her house were "beaten up" by water falling from the roof. To offset the damage, she placed Aspidistra elatior (cast-iron plants) between the nandina and the house.

Jenny Addie of Green Thumb West nursery in Martinez has seen the same problem. She asks important questions of homeowners before they purchase plants, including color scheme.

The visual impact of variegated yellow plants may be lost if they're placed in front of a yellow stucco house, Mrs. Addie explained.

Roger Davis, a landscape architect, said knowing the traits of an area is key when placing shrubbery and trees in a landscape.

"It's the bones of the garden that take you through the winter," he said.

For example, plants that thrive well in dry, sunny locations are juniper and yucca.

Landscaping in shopping centers may not be what homeowners have in mind, but they provide examples of other good plants to grow in hot, sunny areas, Ms. Waldrop said. But even these relatively unexciting areas are not without fault.

For example, the dwarf Indian hawthorn planted in medians in front of the Home Quarters store on Bobby Jones Expressway thrive in the hot, sunny spot. However, the shrubs -- which can grow "fat" -- are too crowded. Ms. Waldrop counted 15 plants in a space where six would've sufficed.

Conversely, plants in boggy areas should be those that can take "wet feet," she said.

In the process of landscaping a yard in Columbia County, Ms. Waldrop discovered a natural spring. Instead of fighting the watery area, she placed umbrella plants and giant black taro, a relative of elephant's ear.

To determine soil drainage, dig a hole appropriate for the desired plant or shrub to be planted. Fill the hole with water and calculate the time it takes the water to seep into the ground.

With the right amount of forethought, a yard can be filled with appropriate plants with for all types of locations -- sunny, boggy and shady.

Gardeners and landscapers also suggest taking pictures of the site at different times of the day and before and after rainfall before deciding what to plant. Also measure sunlight, including time of the day and length of time. Homeowners should record roof water runoff and erosion and test for soil drainage.

An excellent reference for homeowners or gardeners planning a yard is The Southern Gardener's Book of Lists, by Lois Trigg Chaplin (Taylor Publishing Co.).

Margaret Weston covers gardening. She can be reached at (706) 823-3217.


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