plants catalogue

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    Milena Angelova

    Do you use any plants catalogue? I mean sometging to see what to use and find out what it would look like in 20 years for example?We are all studing dendrology but now there are so many new forms and plants that are in the market for no more than 5 years or something.


    Rob Halpern

    Pictures and catalogs, on-line or in books, are fine, but for me, knowing the plant in real landscapes is essential.
    And the more times I see a plant in different circumstances, the better I understand it.
    Nothing beats going outside and getting “to know” the plant
    Sadly, that does not give the other essential piece of knowledge: what maintaining the plant in various situations requires.


    I used some books or asked questions on specific forums on internet but as Rob said if you want to do a good work “knowing the plant in real landscapes is essential”… 🙂

    Jordan Lockman

    I do a lot of research in as many different books than I can and even take a walk through garden centers to get to know what is new and what is not working. There are plenty of local gardens that I visit as well that give you a good idea of what looks great down the road. Around here we have an arboretum that is a great place to learn how things do. Most importantly for me I have a back yard garden full of mini-experiments, to see…. What gets eaten, killed by over/under water, what needs attention, what thrives on neglect, what gets zapped by mildew, what is just a cool plant? I have joined a garden club and that is really helpful. It is a club full of people that want to talk at great lengths about what works and what does not. What plants are easy and what plants are interesting. The club offers garden tours, trips, seminars, and even plant sales.

    So books:
    Manual of Woody Landscape Plants by Michael Dirr (the “tree bible”)
    Manual of Herbaceous Ornamental Plants by Steven M. Still

    There are many others that I use, but they are mostly local authers about local plants.

    steve phillips

    My advice is that if you don’t know the plant, don’t use it. I really would not ever rely on a catalogue, but the 2 books mentioned by Jordan are very good. Just because a garden center sells a plant, doesn’t mean it will work! Take a walk around the neighborhood and you will will get the best idea of what plants to use in your “palette”.

    Steve Mercer

    Taking a walk around the neighborhood to get an idea about what everyone else is using is not necessarily the answer. Just because your neighbors are making bad decisions does not mean you should be to. I know in my area there are about 25 plants that get used over and over. All of our customers see these plants and that is all they ask for because that is all they know. The problem with that is plant populations. Plants are like small children. Leave your small children at day-care every day and they are guarantied to be sick all the time. If one child gets sick they all get sick. When you can stand on the corner of a customer’s property and count 10 or 15 of the same kind of plants in the neighbor’s yards next to you (especially trees) then you are setting the customer up for potential disease problems.

    I have never understood the Human emotion of “me too” A customer looks out their window and sees a plant directly across the street in a neighbor’s yard and decides that they want one too, There are so many plants to choose from why would anyone want what their neighbor has? Does conformity carry forward into the landscape too? Not for me! The way to really stand out is to use a much wider palette. This requires careful study over many years. Observing plants that are established in older neighborhoods, parks, cemeteries, Arboretums. In Books look for the National champions. What are their sizes. Though your tree planted at the customer’s site may never be a national champion you at least know how big that plant is capable of becoming. The biggest challenges are in new varieties. If a new variety is released by the National Arboretum, it has probably been tested by the Arboretum 30 or 40 years before it has been released to the public. If the plant is released from XYZ nursery, They may have only discovered it 5 years ago. And no one has seen a mature plant of that cultivar and can only guess at what it will be like 40 years from now. It is amazing, for an example, how many new shrubs that hit the market have tags on them the state the plant will be 3 foot tall and yet 40 years later the plant is 5 foot tall! The marketing tags in garden centers are close to useless in my opinion. The most important information they can deliver are the scientific name and the price. I can at least take the scientific name home and do further research on the plant. Plant locations are a big issue. For an example a Norway spruce in Maine will look completely different in Kentucky. In Maine because of the the cool mornings in the summer and colder winters the Trees will be Blue Green. In Kentucky they will be green with no hint of blue. The Web has it’s own issues, since anyone can post information, always take information gleaned from the web with a grain of salt. It is a good place to start your research but it should by no means be considered gospel! Nothing will ever replace physically observing a mature specimen plant in your area. Unfortunately with new varieties, it may be 40 to 80 years from now before we get to see those specimens. Keep that in mind when using something that is new. When in doubt always leave more elbow room for a new cultivar to grow as it almost never stays at or smaller than the advertised size!

    These are my observations ( after 31 years in the business ) I hope this helps.


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