Pick Plants with Emotional Intelligence

Selecting the right plants for a design regularly becomes one of the most time consuming portions of a design project for me.  Like all designers, I have my list of go-to plants; the tried-and-true plants that thrive and provide a lot of visual interest.  But every landscape calls for unique plants, whether for a unique function or to highlight a specific spot.  When you are trying to pick plants…. those few perfect plants, from the thousands of possibilities, it is easy to have time fly by and, before you know it, you have skipped lunch (maybe even dinner) and still have to select more plants.

Of course, the more conditions you add to a specific selection, potentially the more amount of time it takes to make the right choice.  This is especially true when you are working in less familiar territory.  If you need a Mediterranean garden, I can rattle off a list of plants a mile long that would fit.  But what about when that garden is going to be located adjacent to a disused rail line, and I need plants that will help detoxify the soil in addition to looking great?

This is where The Plantium will step in.  For the last couple of months I have been speaking with landscape architects and designers, environmental planners, urban planners, conservationists, and many others, asking the question: What environmental factors impacting plants do you regularly consider?  All of these responses are being used by The Plantium to improve their database of plants so that the selection process will be easier, no matter the situation.  So when you need to know what plants will thrive along a disused railroad track, you can search for plants that are tolerant to copper, arsenic, and petroleum products, three of the most common pollutants along rail lines.

What are some of the most common environmental factors design professionals consider when selecting plants?  There are the apparent ones (and ones that The Plantium already supports) such as sun exposure, water requirements, and soil conditions.  Some of the other commonly mentioned factors were:

  • High wind conditions
  • Heavy metal tolerance
  • Pollution remediation
  • Intermittent water inundation
  • Nitrogen and phosphorous uptake
  • Air pollution tolerance
  • Early establishers in disturbed landscapes
  • High UV radiation tolerance
  • Pine needle and leaf-litter tolerance
  • And many others

Some of these factors are certainly specialized to specific design sectors, but others are ones that designers need to deal with on a regular basis.  For instance, in Northern Utah we receive approximately 15% more UV radiation than at lower altitudes.  Several plants have foliage damage at our elevation if they are planted in the direct sun.  This is just one example of why I am excited to see these factors added to The Plantium’s database.  Look for that in future updates!  Until then, happy planting!

Check out the entire white paper. CLICK HERE

Guest Author:

Benjamin George, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning
Utah State University

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