We have many “things” we do to tend to our gardens: pruning, fertilizing, mulching, watering, etc. We each have out own personal reasons and opinions on what gardening tasks are most important and what constitutes a healthy, thriving garden.
I like to create gardening slogans, and once wondered: could we distill all the reasons for our gardening tasks into one sentence? Is there some central theme behind everything we do in our garden? I discovered: yes.
In all the gardening classes I teach, I say “Know Your Plant.” There are many different things to know about your plant, and the two notions I like to emphasize are understanding the growth habit and native habitat of your plants.
The growth habit describes how the plant grows or what the plant does over the course of one year. The native habitat of a plant refers to where we would find that plant growing wild out there in nature before humans moved everything all over the place. The environmental conditions found in the native habitat of a plant gives us clues about how to take care of that plant.
Plants that grow in open, sunny meadows will likely need lots of sun to thrive and survive. Plants native to lowland, tropical areas will likely not survive winter snow.
Therefore one of my main gardening slogans is:
THE GOAL FOR ANY TYPE OF GARDENING IS TO:
REPRODUCE THE NATIVE HABITAT FOR YOUR PLANT,
TO ACHIEVE THE DESIRED GROWTH HABIT FOR THAT PLANT,
WHILE HAVING LOTS OF FUN….IT’S GOTTA BE FUN!
For example, you are told that shrubs like Camellias and Azaleas like acidic soil. It’s not that some professor in the agriculture department at some university discovered this. No. It is simply that we know the soils in their native habitat are acidic. Therefore for our Camellias and Azaleas to thrive and rebloom we must provide acidic soil conditions.
Another example, once you learn that many tropical orchids are epiphytes and live in trees (you likely learned this reading my book How Orchids Rebloom), you learn that we repot orchids with materials (e.g. bark, moss) that mimic the conditions of their native habitat living up there in a tree.
If our plants fail to survive, thrive, and rebloom, some aspect of our plant’s native habitat must be missing or incorrect.
May you achieve your goals in gardening!