Just when you think you’ve researched all the alternatives and learned everything about choosing the right plant for any given location, you are humbled.
I look at our xeriscaped yard and landscape as an experimental outdoor laboratory, where I can test various plants for performance over a period of a year or more. I used book and internet references from reliable sources to choose carefully those native and adaptive plants that should work well in our landscape design and plan.
If experience tells the tale, I would estimate that in the past two years, we have replaced around 20 percent of the original plantings based on “trowel and error” – putting something in that didn’t meet expectations or do well in a given location. Texas Betony was replaced by Martha Gonzales roses, Heartleaf Skullcap was replaced with Mountain Pea, Zexmenia and Nolina texana were replaced with Purple Skullcap, and the jury is still out on some other plants like Blackfoot Daisy which often dies after blooming – thought it was a reliable evergreen perennial! Powis Castle Artemesia is about to be replaced due to it’s rapidly sprawling habit, and unattractive appearance when pruned back Now I know that the plants that didn’t work for me have proven to work well for other area gardeners – it may be just a case of location, location, location. They were just put into the wrong piece of real estate.
Reliable plant references are wonderful tools for planning a garden area, and are based on well researched information, but when the roots hit the soil, the proof is in the plant’s performance in the location planted. Trowel and Error!
There are so many native and adaptive plants suitable for Central Texas that we all can’t grow each and every one of them (as much as I would love to), so occasionally switching out selections for different ones provides me and other gardeners an opportunity to learn by a gardener’s “on-the-job experience”. So, I continue to research alternative and new plants for which I have no experience through conversation with a network of Austin Garden Blogger friends who have. Sharing information in this way broadens the academic approach to learning about plants to real-life experiences which may or may not contradict written sources.
So, why worry about whether you made a good choice when adding a new plant to your garden. Give it your best educated guess based on your research, plant it, learn from your experience, then share it with others. “Trowel and error” is often the best way to learn and learning is FUN!