Hartley Magazine

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Darcy Daniels on Plant Lust—How to impulse buy and still love yourself in the morning

Azara micrphylla does a great job of blocking neighbor’s house and keeps its narrow profile. Courtesy Darcy Daniels

Plant lust. If you garden, you’re probably susceptible. You fall in love with a plant—or many plants—and then find yourself wandering your yard, not knowing how to fit your exciting new beauties into your garden’s design.

So in anticipation of my own yearly plant lust, I’m turning to Portland, Oregon designer, Darcy Daniels. Would she help me control my impulse-buying syndrome? I want my garden to have cohesion instead of, what a friend wryly called her place—“A plop garden. I plop things in wherever they’ll fit.”

But Darcy surprises me. She doesn’t think plant lust should be overcome. “Gardening is fun,” she says, “and plant lust is part of it.”

However, Darcy advises me to reserve the joys of the impulsive buy for smaller plants. She sees impulse vs. planning as a continuum based on size. “The bigger the plant, the higher the bar,” she says. Those darling grasses with names like ‘Little Bunny’? Sure, she tells me, fall in love and go all out by planting them in multiples so they’ll look their best. But a tree that will eventually be 25 feet tall? Back off and do research.

Darcy Daniels, Portland, Oregon garden designer

Before looking for specific plants, Darcy says, ask yourself—what job does this perennial, shrub, or tree need to do?  Look for attributes of foliage and form before flowers. And Darcy wants plants that earn their keep, with four-season interest like unusual bark, contrasting foliage, bright fall color, great blooms—fragrance is a major bonus.

Ask—how would this plant fit in terms of size (no major pruning), or color, texture, and shape? Check your climate zone. For sure-fire hardiness, drop two zones below yours so they won’t need to be bundled into a greenhouse or wrapped for winter protection.

Now you have guidelines. You can consult many great garden books or check reliable online websites where you can filter your requirements. Darcy’s go-to favorites include Great Plant Picks, Missouri Botanical Garden, Xera Plants, and of course, her own website, eGardenGo. Darcy says, “My site will also help you find suitable companions for those plants that followed you home because you lusted after them.”

Elegantly narrow and tall, the right trees don’t have to form a solid barrier to create privacy. Courtesy Darcy Daniels

When you have some choices, confirm plant availability at mail-order places like Plants Delight, or sites like the appropriately named Plant Lust, which can connect you to your own nearby nurseries.

“See plants as problem solvers,” Darcy says. Then fall in love.