Every week I find myself replying to E-mails from people seeking advice as to what they should plant in their garden. And I often wonder if someone who writes columns about food is asked for advice as to what meal to cook tonight. Or if fashion writers are asked “What should I wear?”
To me choosing plants, just like food, and clothing, are very much a personal choice. And to be completely honest, it is nearly impossible to make a plant selection for someone via E-mail or the telephone. Just as it would be impossible to give fashion advice to a person whose taste you don’t know or whose body shape you haven’t seen.
Up here in the tropics we are lucky enough to have a huge range of native and exotic plants to choose from. Alone at Yuruga Nursery there are over 500 different native plants at any one time. So your best bet is to go out and do a bit of good old-fashioned shopping. Pretend you’re looking for shoes. Find plants you like the looks of, check the size and other features that are important to you. If it’s what you’re after, take it home, and if you’re still a little uncertain there are always sales staff to ask for confirmation that you’ve made an appropriate choice. However I must stress that the most important thing is that you’ve chosen a plant you like the looks of, because after all you’re going to be the one who has to live with it, and unlike shoes, you can’t put your unwanted plants into a charity bin for re-distribution.
A fact that most of us plant-people don’t like to admit to is that after several years in the industry we will often go for plant recommendations that are considered the “safe plant options” because we know these popular stock-standard plants have always worked. Unfortunately it also means that the less well known species are ignored and you may end up with a garden that looks the same as your neighbours. Don’t forget, you are allowed to take risks when selecting plants because you may end up finding that you have a greener thumb than you realised and subsequently, by the end of it you’ll feel a much stronger connection to the plants surrounding your home.
To all the people who have over the last few years been brave enough to allow me to select plants on their behalf and have come back for more. I sincerely thank you for your trust.
(Published in Cairns City Life magazine, July 2009)