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When you envision your outdoor space, the focus is usually on the hard surface part of the project—the patio where you can sit and chat with friends, the firepit where you can roast marshmallows with family, or the outdoor kitchen where you can grill yourself a delicious steak. While all of these elements are very important, the plantings you choose for your outdoor space are equally, if not more important.

Though the plantings cannot always give an ‘experience’ like the hard surface parts of your project can, your space will be left looking drab and boring without plants. The right plants can bring life to your property by adding a pop of color or a sweet aroma, creating a barrier, or blocking out noise. Most importantly, plants bring an ever-changing beauty and excitement to a property. With thousands of plants to choose from, where do you begin?

1. Manage your workload

How involved do you want to be with your landscape? If you plan to maintain the landscape beds yourself, it is really important to discuss with your designer the type of maintenance the plants placed in your space require. Some plants are really easy to keep beautiful, where others require frequent pruning and can be troublesome to keep alive. Whatever level of work you would like to put in is just fine, but the right plants need to be selected to match this level of work! If you love getting your hands dirty each year you may want to leave a space for annual flowers to be installed; if this is not for you, you may want to select all perennial plantings (plants that come back every year). Discussing whether annuals or perennials are a better fit with your designer can make a huge difference for you in the long run. If you plan to hire a company to maintain your landscape beds this topic becomes a non-issue.

2. Right Plant, Right Place

Especially in Northern Michigan, the right plants must be put in the right place. No matter how much you may love a certain type of plant, it may not be able to thrive in the area you would like to put it. Assessing your yard for sunlight is the first step. Note how much sun each area gets in your space and communicate that information to your designer. For an area to be considered ‘full sun’ it requires more than 6 hours of sun a day, ‘part sun’ requires 4-6 hours a day, and shade plants require less than 4 hours of sun a day. Hardiness zone (whether a plant can survive the winter in your area) have to be considered too. The brutal Northern Michigan winters automatically rule out some plants for our area unfortunately. The right plants in the right place will grow bulky and beautiful and can withstand rough weather conditions or pest infestations.

sunlight vs shade

3. Consider the Soil and Native Plants

In general, soil in Northern Michigan is extremely sandy. While this is great for water drainage, some plants can struggle in our sandy soils. One consideration to help your garden survive is to select native plants. These plants are familiar with all of the conditions in Northern Michigan and can thrive. Native plants also tend to grow stronger root structures and attract pollinators.

4. Vary Plant Types and Remember Winter

There are thousands and thousands of options when it comes to choosing the plants that are right for your property. We recommend thinking about how tall and large the plant will become down the road, as having some variation in height is really important. Think about which colors you like and which you do not. A designer will likely suggest plants of varying textures, shapes, and sizes so the planting area has interest both vertically and horizontally. A final consideration when looking at plant varieties is what the plants will look like in the winter. Since our winter season is sometimes quite long, it is wise to include plants that have some interest or beauty, even in the winter!

5. Find Something You Love

Our final piece of advice is simple: find at least a few plants you really love and incorporate them into your landscape. Even if you are not very interested in plants, there will likely be at least one that you really enjoy. Doing some quick research can pull up unique plants that will survive in your area and may help you decide what you would love to include. Most designers have lots of experience with unique plantings, so asking them to show you photos of some of their favorite plants or plantings they have done for others is a great idea to hopefully find a plant that you love!

Selecting a Landscaping Company to Design Your Garden Spaces

There is a whole lot to consider when choosing plantings for your newly installed landscape. A quick google search brings up countless choices for our state, but some plants can’t thrive in the Northern Michigan climate. Our sandy soil and colder winter temperatures eliminate several options for plantings. An experienced landscape designer or landscape architect can help guide you in your plant selection process. When you are presented with your landscape design, there should also be a planting list included.

At TruNorth Landscaping, we try to provide pictures of what each plant will look like so that you can see how the garden will look together. We also have our own nursery, so we truly know what plants will do well in our climate. We work with several other nurseries in the state to provide additional planting options, so your plants will be used to our cooler nights and winters before they are planted. With over 30 years of landscaping experience, we can help you pick the perfect plants to highlight your outdoor space!

Check out the other 3 parts of this blog series:

Ready to have the best-looking property on the block in Grand Traverse or Leelanau County, MI? If so, meet with our team of experts, choose a solution to improve your property, and get ready to sit back, relax, and enjoy your beautiful outdoor space.

Get started today with a consultation!

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