The trick to great landscaping is how to get the right look using different plants and materials. Good planning requires long term vision. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right plants.

Blooming

The blooming of a plant is without a doubt its primary attraction and generally you want to consider two when the plant comes into bloom and the colour of its flowers. Once you've got these points straight for a given plant, you can then set up a colour scheme and have a steady display of flowers all summer long.

Suggestions for colours:

  • Strong contrasts create a dramatic effect (bright red with light yellow, pure white with dark blue, dark orange with blue);
  • A monochromatic theme makes for a softer display (pink in various tones and nuances);
  • A dominant colour with accents of its complementary colour makes for a colourful but harmonious display (cold shades: dominant blue or purple with complementary accents of yellow, warm shades, dominant red or crimson with complementary accents of blue);
  • Adding a bit of grey can tone down a contrast that is too strong or buffer two colours that don't mix well together.

Foliage

The different types of foliage offer a very varied range of textures and colours:

  • Fine foliage lightens up a display (birch, honey locust);
  • Dense foliage makes for a fuller look (Norwegian maple, cedar);
  • Fanned-out foliage lets the light through to a shaded or semi-shaded area ('Drummondii' maple, 'Elegantissima' dogwood);
  • Foliage with contrasting colours attracts attention ('Crimson King', 'Golden Globe' cedar, 'Diabolo' ninebark);
  • Foliage with special autumn colours can make for a striking portrait (serviceberry, red maple, ginkgo).

Size

The size of a plant at maturity should be a factor in deciding where to put it in your overall picture. A large plant can eventually overwhelm its neighbours and prevent them from growing properly and it can also end up overpowering your yard and upset the balance. Choosing slow-growing species or species that stay small can be an option for the short or medium term.

Form

The form of a plant describes the shape the plant will take on if left to grow naturally and is not pruned. If you are looking for a particular effect (umbrella) it's best to choose a tree that has that particular form naturally).

Soil

Not too many people are born with a green thumb. It comes through observation and a basic understanding of what needs plants have. The primary characteristics of soil that affect the growth of plants are drainage and the pH (degree of acidity). In doubt, take a sample to your merchant and have a soil analysis done.

Exposure

Each plant requires a number of hours of sunlight to grow and flourish. Having too little or too much sun can affect the growth of a plant and the quality of its blooms and can even kill certain species.

  • full sun, 6 hours or more of direct sun per day;
  • partial-shade: 3 to 6 of filtered sunlight;
  • shade: 2 to 3 hours of filtered or direct sunlight.

Maintenance

How easy a plant is to care for depends on how tolerant it is to disease and pests, how fussy it is about soil type and nutrients and whether or not the plant requires regular pruning. Some plants are delicate and require special care while others can stand up to almost anything and require almost no care.

Hardiness

Hardiness refers to a code attributed to a plant based on its capacity to thrive through winter. It is a useful tool to help you choose the right plant for your region of the country. However, bear in mind that the hardiness zone attribution of a given plant can be affected either up or down by extraneous conditions such as a microclimate, a wind, a heavy blanket of snow, etc.

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