09 Nov

5 Unusual Plants for Garden Landscape

In my previous post, I shared useful tips for designing a low maintenance garden landscape. Today, I am introducing some unusual plants for garden landscapes. These plants are unusual because of their extra-ordinary shape and formation. Almost all of these unusual plants are hardy, evergreen and require less maintenance. Before I introduce these plants, the question is why select unusual plants when you have a huge variety of plants for your garden landscape? The answer is simple. Unusual plants are for unusual people – enthusiasts and experimental gardeners.

There are a number of unusual and stunning plants in the universe but I would limit to just five of them. The plants in this list are easy to grow and can be used as nice companion plants in your garden landscape.

Ponytail Palm

Beaucarnea recurvata or Ponytail Palm is an unusual plant because of its unusual and very noticeable caudex which is used to store water and food. Typically Beaucarnea develops a tuft of long and strappy leaves that emerge from a bulbous stem. Because of its palm-like leaves and swollen stem, it is also called ponytail palm and sometimes Elephant Foot Tree. Beaucarnea is considered one of the easiest houseplants to grow. It can be grown in garden containers as well as in landscape. The plant requires bright sunlight and preferably direct sunlight for some part of the day. Since it is native to the deserts of Mexico, Beaucarnea does not require much water. Water only when the soil is dry; excessive watering would damage the plant Fertilize Beaucarnea plants regularly during spring and summer. Beaucarnea loves well drained soil and warm climate; protect it from extremely cold weather and frost.

Beaucarnea is unusually slow plant. Though it eventually gains a height of more than 15 feet but it takes more than 10 years.

ponytail palm

Photo © www.pythonjungle.com

Golden Barrel

Echinocactus grusonii or Golden Barrel is one of the most widely grown commercial species of cactus. It is an easy to grow plant and can be used as companion plant in many types of garden landscapes. It remains solitary and assumes the shape of a big, fat ball until it mature; at maturity it tends to form a cylindrical shape. Echinocactus grusonii is unusual because of its striking shape, spines, crown, flowers, and ability to survive long droughts. Golden Barrel requires bright sunlight and warm, humid climate. However, it can withstand cold weather and small spans of freeze. Like Beaucarnea, Echinocactus grusonii is a hungry plant and requires regular fertilization.

golden barrel cactus unusual plant

Photo © Pamla J. Eisenberg

Madagascar Palm

Pachypodium lamerei or Madagascar Palm (it is not a palm) is a tree-like succulent plant with a thick, grey stem that is completely covered with spines and topped with palm-like leaves. The unusual formation of Pachypodium makes it a perfect choice for rocky or experimental landscapes. It can gain a height of more than 15 feet in tropical climates. Pachypodium belongs to Southern Madagascar. It loves well-drained but somewhat rich soil. The plant sheds its leaves during winter; during this phase it does not require much water. This weird looking plant produces delicate white and yellow flowers at maturity. Pachypodium does not like spells of frost and cold weather.

unusual plant pachypodium lamerei

Photo © AxelStraub

Agave Americana var. Medio Picta, ‘Alba’

One of my prime choices for landscape gardens, Agave americana var. Medio Picta can dramatically change and enhance the overall effect of your landscape garden. It is a rugged plant but adds unusual colors and shapes to your garden landscape as a companion plant. It produces a nice rosette of fleshy leaves with teethed edges and stripes of green and creamy white color. Agave Americana var. Medio Picta prefers bright sunlight and moderate watering. The plant can live up to 35 years and gains 90-120 cm in height.

agave americana medio picta alba

Photo © Tom Spencer

Zamia Furfuracea

Zamia Furfuracea is a slow growing plant and makes unusual foliage of thick and hard texture, that is why, it is also called Cardboard palm. Zamia likes bright sunlight, moderate watering, and some fertilizer in spring. The color of leaves ranges from olive green to dark green. A mature plant can grow as large as 3-4′ in height and 6′ in diameter with a heavy trunk that acts as water reservoir during drought. It is quite a hardy plant and makes a good choice for landscapes because of its hardy and drought-tolerant nature.

zamia furfuracea

Photo © Mike Gray

If you would like to add more entries to this list of unusual plants, do share your comments. I will review and feature those unusual plants on this website.

08 Nov

How to design a low maintenance garden landscape

Designing a garden landscape is an art; and it is not hard to master it. You do not have to have a big lawn, skills of a master gardener, expensive tools or abundance of plants. You just have to select the right type of plants for the right location and climate. Selecting the right plants for your garden landscape is somehow tricky. You cannot just mix and match your favourite plants and put them together in your lawn or garden. You have to pick and choose plants that complement one another and mix up well to make a uniform and a low maintenance garden landscape.

In this post, I would list a couple of general rules that novice gardeners can use to design a low maintenance garden landscape. The primary principle of landscape design is to do your homework before paving the ground for a garden landscape.

Purpose of Garden Landscape

Decide the purpose of your landscape. Landscapes are design for special purposes. You may want to design a garden landscape for shade, as visual divider, for noise control, or for sheer ornamental purposes.

Understand Climatic Conditions

Once you have decided the purpose of landscaping, do some research to understand the (year round) climate of your garden, lighting conditions, type of soil, and availability of land and water.

Decide the Type of Landscape

When you understand all of these vital factors, decide what type of landscape you want to design: rock garden landscape, xeriscape, miniature landscape, native garden landscape, evergreen, tropical garden landscape etc. Every landscape type has unique requirements and features. For a low maintenance garden landscape, go for native garden landscape. You will still have a long list of plants to select from.

Also see:

Select the Right Plants for Your Garden Landscape

At this stage, you should have clear idea of type of plants that you are going to use in your landscape. The toughest part starts now; selection of plants. Do not select plants just because you like them. Select plants that can grow well in climatic conditions (light, temperature, soil etc.) of your garden. Make a combination of plants of different types – shrubs, flowering bushes, small trees etc.

Visualize Your Landscape Design

Once you have a list of plants; try to visualize how your garden landscape would look like when these plants grow old. Plants that are smaller today might turn into big trees spreading their roots and branches all over the garden. Similarly, shrubs might need regular pruning. Some plant might be hungrier than their companions. Some of them might remain solitary or too small to make survive under large specimen. Now start eliminating all plants that might grow larger than your landscape.

Select Colors and Textures

At this point, you still have a large number of varieties that you can use in your landscape garden. Now think about aesthetics and dimensions. Think about color, texture, and shape of shortlisted plants. Shades of same hues complement each other and give a uniform look-and-feel. Colors with greater contrast make showy and vibrant environment. Grey, black and white and neutral colors that can be used in background to neutralize and break distracting color schemes. Texture is another important factor. Some plants, for example ferns, are delicate. Some are rough or rugged (for example Pachypodium) and some (like Beaucarnea) have both characteristics. Make a combination of these plants. Combination of plants eliminates a number of problems like insects, temperature and soil control because some plants repel insects, some attract pollinating bugs, some provide shade for plants that do not like direct light, and some make vigorous roots to keep the soil intact.

Purchase Plants for Your Garden Landscape

Obtain plants. Go to your local nurseries and purchase plants. Do not go for larger specimen; purchase small plants – it is fun watching them grow into large plants. Always purchase plants that are healthy and acclimatized.

Go Digging!

The fun part starts now. Time to flex your muscles and dig the ground. You know rest of the stuff. Go digging and share your experiences. If you have designed a garden landscape, come across a nice design or have some cool design ideas, do share. I will feature your landscape design on this website.

Recommended Book:

Add Some Pond Plants

If you already have a fish pond in your garden you might even want to improve its aesthetics by adding some pond plants which will attract natural wildlife. If you are considering building one, its maintenance can get much easier with equipment from specialists like www.allpondsolutions.co.uk.

Here are a couple of inspiring landscape designs that I have come across recently.