Lessons from a First-Year Native Plant Garden

Image and garden art by the author

It’s now mid October. I’ve gone through one growing season with my garden I planted in the early spring. Having designed and installed this myself (with some friendly assistance here and there) has provided an abundance of “learning opportunities.” That said, here are some things I would have considered before planting in this west-facing exposure had I known…

Observe the movement of the sun or at least predict it throughout the growing season. 

I planted in early March not considering that in mid-summer what I thought would be shade would be exposed to the hot sun.  There’ve been sections of tender little shade plants like twinflower, vanilla leaf, and false lily of the valley that did not survive the unexpected sun.  I will need to replace them with something else.

Take into account that the shrubs that would provide shade would not provide such until a few years of growth

This year I put a beach umbrella over the affected plants.  I chose this route other than replacing them with more sun-tolerant ones as eventually there will be more shade in that location. 

Mix more together of plants as I described in the previous article to create more of a plant community and harmony.

It’s not too late to add more variety.  If I wait until the cold weather sets in I can move some things around when the plants are dormant.

Consider what will be left after the first lovely show of spring

Several patches of my garden showed up early and were done early meaning by summer there were bare spots of ground.  This is part of learning about plants- the hard way.  Now I know that I need anchor plants and shrubs to carry the show when the early bloomers are done for the season.

Get some Professional Help

Even though I had someone advise me on what plants to purchase for each location, I did not know what plants to combine with which.  For the next area of my yard, I will be consulting with an actual designer/installer to make my job easier. This way I will get the results that I want instead of years of trial and error.  It’s an investment that will pay off in the long run.

What I did right?

I started!  My overall design looks good.  Building the beds, planting and adding artistic touches has been so much fun. Plus, doing it myself I’ve learned so much. Next week I will be meeting with my new garden designer. Stay tuned!


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