Sunday, September 12, 2010

Right Plant, Right Place

Anyone who has gardened for any length of time has heard the phrase "right plant, right place." it's a simple concept, place plants in areas that the plants are going to do best. Places with the right levels of sun, the right amount of natural water (called rain!) and the right soil conditions. Man, being a species of control-nuts, often wants to force plants to behave in places that are difficult. Take the former owners of our house. The house is a wonderful Georgian Colonial. That means it is symmetrical. The former owners wanted the landscape to be symmetrical as well. Unfortunately one side is under the shade of an old live oak tree and the other side has full sun during the summer for 12 hours! The Oak tree side has rich, dark black soil from all the oak leaves. The sunny side is mostly sand and it's pretty dry. So they planted their Azaleas on each side and watered like crazy. I'm sure they fertilized as well. They also cut the Azalea bushes as if they were boxwoods!

It looks very neat doesn't it? We continued on in their footsteps using the 7-zone sprinkler system, three distinct pest control companies and a lawn care company that embodied the "mow-blow & go" mentality! They dumped fertilizer on the yard 4 times a year, charging us of course. It cost a small fortune to keep this yard looking this way. But it cost an immeasurable price to the environment.

One thing I noticed was that the bushes were actually Azaleas. No more clipping off the potential blooms.
Here it is in 2006

But the past few years have included prolonged periods of drought. And that has changed the whole thing.
Here is the sunny side in 2010

And here is the shady side same year, 2010:

Keep in mind that one of the MarshLand rules is no watering. Plants live by rain alone once they are established. Another rule is no artificial fertilizer. However, the shady side naturally gets a lot of oak leaf debris that gives the Azaleas some of that acid they need so much. For the sunny side I have to sweep large piles of leaves over to that side. It helped for a time, but with the multiple years of drought, it wasn't enough.

This year I'm going to transition that sunny side to a native "hedge" border. There are two lovely American Beauty Berry bushes volunteering right in the center of the Azaleas. I've encouraged these for a couple years now.  This year I'll use some of their seeds to plant a line of Beauty Berry bushes and at the same time, I'll start to cut out the azaleas. With a little luck and planning maybe I'll have a great crop of the right plant in the right place! 

PS: For some great info on the Florida American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana) click here!

Note that there are great mosquito repellent qualities to this plant, scientifically proven. Something every gardener can appreciate!