Right Plant - Right Place
Proper plant selection can create a lush, colorful garden without a lot of water. By choosing, grouping and installing plants in conditions favorable for their growth, you can also help protect the environment, as well as resist damage from insects, disease and drought.
While you're getting to know the soils in your garden, map out the sunny and shady spots, the moist and dry spots, and the low lying and sloping spots. Use this information to help you make wise plant choices. Proper plant selection will reduce your need to irrigate or use chemicals.
For sunny, dry spots that don't have an easy supply of water, it is best to choose plants that don’t use a lot of water in the summertime. Bulbs, native plants, and Mediterranean plants are all good choices. Bulbs do the major portion of their growing during the spring or fall, so they avoid the dry summers. Alternatively, native plants are adapted to growing in wet winters and dry summers.
There are many resources for selecting the right plants for your garden conditions. If you live near a stream or shoreline, plant a salmon friendly garden.
Group plants by their requirements for water, sun, and soil.
Choose plants adapted to your garden conditions.
Plant pest and disease resistant varieties to reduce the need for chemicals.
Go Native! Native plants thrive with little care, with the right conditions.
Minimize lawn areas. Most trees, shrubs, and groundcovers need less water and fertilizer.
The Farmer's Almanac has examples of four easy gardens designed for different site conditions: A Garden for Hot, Dry Conditions; An English-Style Cottage Garden for a Sunny Site; A Garden for a Sunny and Damp Spot; and A Garden for Light Shade.
Better Homes and Gardens has a variety of plans for different site conditions as well as landscaping needs.
If you want to go native, check out the Washington State University Gardening in Western Washington Native Plants website. They will help you identify and imitate nearby native plant associations, or to start from scratch to establish native plant associations appropriate for your site conditions. This site also lists schedules for the Master Gardener Plant Problem Clinics, as well as book references.
Or you can utilize the GrowIt.com plant selector database which will sort for plants by site or desired visual characteristics. The Delta website provides lists of waterwise plants by site condition.
If you are in need of inspiration, there are a number of public gardens that you can visit. The EPA has a very thorough list of gardens that demonstrate the Puget lowlands vegetation.
The Waterwise Garden at the Bellevue Botanical Garden, located at 12001 Main Street in Bellevue, not only has great gardens to look at, but has a lot of educational material available at its visitor center.