There are a number of reasons for choosing plants for the landscape. We may be attracted to the way they look or want them to serve a specific function or purpose in the landscape, such as providing a screen, blocking unwanted views, or stabilizing a soil bank. Others may be selected because of their ability to adapt to poor soils or simply for the ease of care. Generally, when our designers are asked about plants, responding is not as simple as blurting out a few names.
Plant selection is an organized process that examines several factors: function, aesthetics, site adaptability and management. The priority placed on each category varies with the individual. The freedom to choose from a wide variety of plants depends on the flexibility or restrictions imposed by the individual, the site, or in some cases the local availability of plants.
Once we have identified the potential aesthetic qualities, the next question is to determine whether or not the plant will truly perform in the soil and environmental conditions on your property. A helpful adage is “Don’t fight the site.” If you test or challenge Mother Nature and pick a plant that does not match your site conditions, there is a good chance that it will fail. Factors related to site adaptability – such as the plants adaptability in the Arizona heat and tolerance for site conditions such as soil type, exposure and light levels – will define whether your aesthetic selections will perform to your expectations.
The final consideration in plant selection is management. Landscape management or maintenance guides the development of plants in the landscape. After initial establishment, accent plants start to show off their qualities, plant masses begin to integrate, and border plantings achieve their intended shape. It is the feasibility and quality of maintenance that ensures the long-term aesthetic appeal of any plant and certainly highlights its contribution to the overall appeal of the landscape.