PLANNING AND PLANTING

It's axiomatic in the green industry, and every turf manager and horticulturist has heard it many times: Right plant, right place. That can mean many things in terms of the qualities you look for in a plant, but the upshot is this: You want the plant to thrive with minimal effort on your part.

Unfortunately, it's easy to ignore this advice. For one thing, it's not always easy to find the variety you want. For another, a less desirable variety may be less expensive. Or perhaps you just didn't think it was critical enough to devote much time to research the options.

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These are all examples of short-term thinking. Sure, it may save you time or money to just plant whatever's available. But sooner or later, you're likely to pay for the decision with extra maintenance needs or simply a less-than-hoped-for appearance.

So, in practical terms, what does “right plant, right place” require you to do? It means doing the necessary digging to:

  • Determine your needs. What practical or aesthetic requirements must the plant meet? What potential pests are prevalent? What site factors come into play?

  • Determine which species and varieties are best adapted to these requirements.

  • Find sources for the plants you need.

For turf, the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) remains the primary resource for assessing your options (reports are available online at www.ntep.org). In addition, many universities run trials and base their recommendations on the results. These are especially useful because they can provide you with choices tested in your local conditions.

Similar resources are available for ornamentals. Check with local universities, cooperative extension offices or local botanic gardens to see if they offer recommendations or have trial gardens open to the public.

Many nurseries and seed suppliers can get you what you want, even if they don't stock it. Ask; don't just settle for what's on hand. The internet is a great resource with which you can locate plants — especially valuable for obtaining the more obscure types.

This issue focuses on plant selection. There's a lot of research devoted to finding better plant types and we'll share some of that with you this month. In the cover feature — survival of the fittest — Jacklin Seed's Dr. Doug Brede discusses how to take advantage of the adaptations of different turfgrasses to create a blend that will provide a superior turf. To bring you up to date on some of the latest and greatest ornamentals, Michigan State's Dr. Robert Schutzki discusses “plants you should be using.”

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