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THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN TROPICAL LANDSCAPE - THE PLANTS
by Phil Bergman
Creating a Lush Tropical Garden is Always About The Plant Selection
This article describes what should be the most important consideration in your landscape project. If you don't apply this concept, you may be disappointed over time with the results of your landscape job.
IMPORTANT POINTS COVERED IN THIS ARTICLE:
When someone visits a public botanical garden or a very nice private garden,
one is left with an impression. And, typically this impression is
mostly about the beautiful plant material just seen.
Most other features of a garden
like pathways, decks and lookout points should be designed to look
at the plants. The point of this article is to remind people
when they landscape their garden, remember the plants! The plants
chosen are the most important part of landscape design.
landscape ideas should work with and around the plants chosen.
These other things are not the most important thing. You must remember to create a garden design with the primary emphasis on
Landscape design and selection of plants
When one first decides to landscape the garden, he typically has a concept or idea in mind. The garden design in his mind might be to "look just like Hawaii" or simply to have a tropical theme. Or, he might select a more formal garden design. Despite which home landscape ideas he has in mind, plants are always part of the project. To accomplish his goal, he must follow one of several paths to make it happen.
He might tackle it totally on his own. Many do this.
This means studying books and the Internet to come up with landscape ideas.
He'll comb through everything
he can find. But, as you can imagine, this can take an immense amount
of time and he might just get frustrated with all those Latin plant names.
And, he might not get a good feel for which species fit best into his garden
0n a typical landscape project, over 95% of the design time and effort goes
into the hardscape, both by the professional and by the consumer. Once
a plan is created, the client typically spends enormous
amounts of time picking out the right light fixtures, the design of the
decks, the shape of the pool, the appropriate material for walkways, stucco
colors, sound systems, etc. When it comes to the plants they might say
something like "I would prefer a big plant over there and a little colorful one
here". Sometimes this is about all the thought that the consumer
gives when discussing the actual plants utilized. Or, they might say
"give me some big hedges over there" to block out the neighbor's view.
How can this be if the garden is really
about the plants? It would appear that the garden design just got
Hiring professional help
As mentioned above, professional help can come in the form of a landscape architect, a garden designer or a landscape contractor.
Landscape architects have the most formal education training of this group. To be successful, they must have a vast knowledge of many items involved in landscape. This includes knowledge of design, structure, engineering, electrical concerns, drainage, soil stability, lighting, safety, and many other things. But, are they experts with the plants? There are some architects with a good knowledge of tropical plants. But, in my experience, there are many others that merely work off a list of "tried and true" species that are commonly used. It is indeed rare to meet a landscape architect who has a comprehensive knowledge of such plants as palms and cycads. There are some that do, but way too feew of them. For most, it's a lot easier to just put in the same species as they did on the last job. Such a shortcoming is understandable in view of the fact that these professionals are responsible for a lot of aspects of the project. I personally really enjoy working with landscape architects who admit their knowledge of the palms and cycads is limited, but are willing to talk with us about different species and suggestions. I've found that, when I work with such a professional, the results are typically great and the customer is very satisfied.
How it typically works with a landscape architect is that he draws up a plan
calling for certain species of plants in certain container size in a
specific areas of the project. A contactor is then hired by you based
on his bid, reputation, etc. The contractor who is hired then buys the
plants at the best price he can. Guaranteed that the contractor will
buy the cheapest available plant in the container called for. He won't
seek out the best "value" for the customer. That's just how it works. For best
results, I've been impressed with landscape architects who select certain
key plants (literally particular plants from a certain nursery that they
specify) and these actual plants
are called for and to be used on the project. This way both the
architect and the client receive the exact plants they want.
Regarding garden designers as a group, they are less formally educated on garden issues but many times have good ideas and experience. As expected, some are more knowledgeable about palms and cycads than others. But, don't expect them to be experts on everything. They too, just like the other professionals above, might need help from a nurseryman expert who grows lots of different species. I work with them from time to time.
If you do decide to use a professional in designing or creating your garden, remember to ask them about their knowledge of the plants. And, tell them that you want to use more unusual and desirable species of plants. Left unsaid, the chances are that you will get very commonly utilized species of plants. At the tail end of the project, it is often too late. We work with all these professionals and can give them ideas about plants that would be be different and beautiful and also thrive in the customers exact locality. Just tell them to call us.
Tropical Plants - Which to Select
As mentioned above, the best time to really think about the plants you want is in the very beginning of the garden design project. If you are at the tail end, it may be a big problem for you to change things. I can say that countless times I've been contacted by homeowners who have gotten to the planting stage of the project and decided that they really don't want the typical "depot store plants". They have finally started to think about the plants and come to realize that they are about to receive the usual formula of Queen Palms, Pigmy Dates and perhaps a Sago Palm.
A contactor will typically purchase and plant your plants at the tail end of the project. If you completely change your selection on him, the chances are that your contractor will start screaming "foul". At this stage he's thinking about wrapping up the job and now he's got to put time and money into doing something he's probably not familiar with. And, he probably did not calculate into his financial plan anything but the most affordable and common species. He had a budget for the plants and different selections may eat into his profits. Avoid all this. Think about the plants from the beginning!
Getting the most beautiful plants for your project
How does one avoid this dilemma? One way is to hire an architect or contractor who will actually give you the plants you want . Tell him early in the game that you don't want the usual selection of plants that everyone else has. He'll probably work with you if you tell him this upfront.
Another approach is to have your contractor have a "plant budget" and allow you at the right point to go out and select the plants you want and have them delivered to your job site. Of course, he will plant them but you picked exactly what you like.
A third approach would be to have your contractor not to include the prices of any plants in his bid and only charge you for planting what is selected by you. This may cut into the profit he adds on to those common plants, but he'll get over that if you persist.
A final approach would be for you to do all your homework beforehand and tell the architect or contractor exactly what species you want planted. You can see that all of these approaches must be set in motion early in the game. Don't let the plants be the last thing on your shopping list! Whether you're doing a whole yard garden design or just looking for landscaping ideas, consider putting in just as much thought into the plants as you would in selecting the right hardscape.
Entryway with rare plants
Lush species along a walkway
Give thought to the species you select!
This is where
knowledge of the plants comes to play. Picking out the right species
can make the difference between an average result or a stunning garden.
Start doing your own
homework early or contact a nursery like ours.
Nurserymen typically know the
plants quite well, typically much better than your selected professional.
Remember, the plants you select are ultimately the most important factor in your landscape design and project. Always plan ahead so you really get that garden of your dreams. If you utilize a specialist like an architect or contractor, let them know at the onset that you want a selection of unusual and beautiful plants, not routine species. Guide them such that you don't get the usual array of "depot store" type plants. If you mention nothing, they'll think it's not important to you. If needed, we are available to help you with your selections or consult your hired professional. Also, our website has a vast number of articles for those seeking more information about palms and cycads.
Owner - Jungle Music Palms and Cycads
TO READ ANOTHER COMPREHENSIVE ARTICLE ON TROPICAL LANDSCAPE WITH 30 PHOTOS, CLICK HERE
Jungle Music Palm Trees, Cycads and Tropical Plants
Nursery Location: 450 Ocean View Ave, Encinitas, CA 92024
Phone: 619 2914605
Hours: Open Monday - Saturday, 9AM to 4
Website: www.junglemusic.net (return home page)
Directions to nursery:
Take Freeway 5 to Encinitas
(10 minutes south of Oceanside, 30 minutes north of San Diego).
Exit Leucadia Blvd West (toward ocean). Immediate left on Orpheus Ave,
left on Union St, Right on Ocean View Ave to 450 Ocean View Ave
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