It's been years ... literally years .... since I started working on v2.0 of the Plant Elements of Design plant selection online database. The light's at the end of the tunnel and v2.0 will be public soon. You may ask "What is this Plant Elements of Design?" Here in The Smart Garden, we know plant selection is key to a landscape that is healthy and long-lived. Sustainability in a landscape is often lost due to poor plant selection.
Admit it now. You have gone into your local garden center and scoped out a wondrous blooming shrub that took your breath away. It's $45 - uff da! - but you just love it. Reading the tag, you see it can grow bigger than you expected. So you think to yourself "I'll just keep it pruned." Easy, right?
Been there. Initially, that plant looks awesome. People walk by, stop and gawk. They ask you its name and compliment your green thumb. Then the shrub fills out and gets a little too big, so you prune it - just as you planned. It grows well over the summer and is suddenly blocking your window. So you prune it back a little more the next spring. Looks good, but now you've pruned off all the flower buds and it hardly produces a bloom. One year you get busy and forget to prune it altogether, and doggone it - it's growing over the window and now the sidewalk. This time when you cut it back, it looks pretty woody, produces no flowers, and has lost its appeal. Now you are tired of the extra work. You remove the plant (no easy feat!) and kiss your $45 bucks and a whole lotta extra work g'bye.
The same can happen with selecting plants that don't grow well in your type of soil, your light conditions, your moisture levels, etc. Remember matching games you played as a kid? Well, here's the adult / gardener version: choose the plants that match your site characteristics. Plant Elements of Design v2.0 enables you to enter your site conditions, click SEARCH, and find plants that match. You get as specific as flower color, texture, form, seasonal interest, and all the plants are hardy in Zone 4 at minimum. In the end, you can create a plant list and export it to MS Excel for printing. PEDv2.0 is easy, accurate and fun to use.
Some of you may be familiar with the PEDv1.0 CD and the web version on SULIS. V1.0 featured 1265 plants. V2.0 features about 2800 and a whole slew of great photos. V2.0 is also web-based, so it doesn't matter whether you are using Windows platform or MAC. Annual subscriptions will be around $20-25 to support a U of M student keeping the database updated and fresh.
I'll keep you posted when it's online and looking for your feedback via this blog, so check back here!