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What do you have to offer a plant?

Planning is so much fun. Seed catalogs, websites, nurseries full of tempting beauties, they all ask for room in our gardens. And when you see something you'd really like, it's so easy to order it or take it up to the cashier. (Planting, on the other hand, can take much more time, unfortunately) Before you get too far into spring madness, consider what you have to give.

There are the obvious factors, shade or sun, current temperature and soil type, but also consider the more subtle aspects of your garden. In your busy life, how much attention can you give a new plant? How often can you water? Roots constricted into a pot dry out more quickly than the surrounding soil, at least for a while.

What's the pH of your soil? Vegetables are usually happier with a slightly acid soil, pH 6 to 7, but azaleas prefer 4.5 to 6. And what's the pattern of shade over the year? Too much in summer could be great or a disaster. Then there's the hardiness factor. What are the lowest temperatures a plant can reasonably be expected to encounter?

There's an element of self-knowledge here, as well as plant knowledge. We grow shrubs and perennials from South Africa to Siberia and almost every other area on earth. Their ancestors were excellently adapted to many different climates. Know your own, and yourself, before you buy.

Mexican shell flower, or tiger flower (Tigridia pavonia)

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