The Q&A Archives: Help

Question: We are a first time home buyer that just purchased a home with no landscaping...We don't know where to start or what plants to use. Our style is Modern/Asian..We live in the Reno,NV area and so we need things that can withstand the weather here. Also something that take minimal watering and maintenace. We were looking at doing maybe a few small trees and the rest some sort of plants...Any ideas? We don't have any clue about any of this..Thank you

Answer: As well as providing an attractive outdoor living space with shade and color, a well-planned landscape design greatly increases the value of one's home. So, it?s worth taking some time to figure out your best options. A complete landscape design is beyond the scope of this Q&A, but I?ll give you some ideas to consider and point you to a good local resource.

The most important things when choosing plants are determining what sun exposure (full, partial, shady) they will thrive in and how much space they need to grow to maturity (both vertically and horizontally), and then comparing that with what your landscape offers. Soil type is another important characteristic. In other words, you wouldn't want to put a huge sun lover in a tiny, shady location. This seems obvious, but many people forget it when they go to the nursery and are confronted by all sorts of beautiful plants. Analyze your site and think about what you want from plants (color, shade, cut flowers, bird attraction, etc.) then choose plants that fit that situation.

Since you are seeking low-maintenance, I strongly urge you to stick with native and desert-adapted choices. They are adapted to our heat, cold, alkaline soil, aridity, sunshine and have few, if any, pest problems. The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office provides lists of well-adapted landscape plants for your region. Go to their website and scroll through the topics. They also have an office in Reno with Master Gardeners who can provide guidance from their experiences. The following link takes you to both the publication list and Master Gardener contact.

Finally, when purchasing trees, it's perfectly okay to stick with small container sizes, such as 5 gallon or 15 gallon. Research shows that they catch up to the larger 24-inch box trees within a few years because they suffer less transfer shock, and their root systems spread rapidly. It's much easier to plant the smaller sizes, and easier on the pocketbook as well, allowing more resources for other plants and outdoor furnishings!
Click on Horticulture Publications at the bottom for a complete list.

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