Horticulturalist Cody Hoya approaches gardening holistically, and says your garden should reflect your lifestyle
Although Cody Hoya’s training is as a horticulturalist, when he talks about plants he sounds more like a therapist. For him, planting flowers is about more than a nice way to spent a weekend outdoors. It is about establishing a lifestyle that is organic and reflects your moods and preferences.
“I think people have a more holistic appreciation for their homes, and their personal environments when the exterior is aesthetically pleasing,” says Hoya, who works for North Haven Gardens. “Your home is like your retreat, and should reflect your individual tastes, inside and out. When this is accomplished, we experience a greater sense of pleasure and therapy in returning to our space.”
Horticulturalists like Hoya are excellent resources for helping inexperienced gardeners find their green thumbs. He’s available in person for customers, and encourages those beginning their gardening to come in and chat with the expert about what kinds of plants will work in your yard. (It doesn’t hurt to bring along photographs noting the time of day and amount of sunlight a space gets.) But he also offers some general tips for making the most of your garden.
The keys to most good gardening is sunlight and watering. Make note of the conditions in each location you would like to accent size, traffic, exposure, drafts, etc. and go from there. “Most people find that their range of potential selections are broader than they expected,” Hoya says.
Whether you live in an apartment or simply like the convenience of moving around plants to suit your needs (indoors or out), many plants thrive in containers. “Container gardens are an excellent way to liven up patios and balconies where apartment dwellers lack yard space,” he says. “There are so many unique and beautiful container designs available now, their aesthetic impact can be equal to, or greater than, whatever goes inside.”
The key characteristic aside from correct sun exposure is choosing the right plants for each container combination. A bit of research or consulting an experienced gardener can get you started. If you don’t leave enough root space for healthy growth, the plants can wither.
“I think the most important goal in interior or exterior design is the personal expression of the owner,” says Hoya. “In that respect, any designer or shopper should take into consideration what will work for them, both aesthetically and in terms of maintenance. Few homeowners will have a minimalist, modern home interior and an informal cottage garden outside; however, if that’s what pleases you, isn’t that what matters?”
An excellent resource for selecting new accents is to join local clubs and societies and participate in seed, plant and cutting exchanges. Many such groups exist, and many can be found online.
“Some may be very specific to a certain genus of plants, and some may be very general and have more of a come-with-and-leave-with policy,” Hoya says. Still, joining a group is a great way to find interesting specimens for both interior and exterior landscapes at little to no cost.
Simply asking friends and neighbors for seeds and divisions is also effective, and there’s the added benefit of their insider’s tips on cultivation.
Almost as easy is driving through a neighborhood and noting how existing gardens with similar layouts and exposure are planted. “Existing gardens are an excellent way to get valuable reference information on plant combinations, cultivation requirements and appearance at maturity,” Hoya says. “A well-established garden can be an encyclopedia of information for anyone who looks closely.”
When it comes to making your garden stand out, Hoys says what you avoid can be as important and what you do.
“I hope people will avoid the mindset that some of the less well-known plants, particularly natives, are either difficult to grow or will not work aesthetically for them,” he says. “There is an extremely diverse array of plants that are low-maintenance, long-lasting and far better suited to our climate than some of the common landscape choices.”
He suggests a little research and exploration of options can open doors. “Most people will be astounded at the wonderful perennials, trees and shrubs they’ve been missing out on for years.”
Hoya counsels wherewithal for any new gardeners hoping to make a going concern of their planting.
“The most common mistake people make is surrendering their efforts after a only few mistakes,” he says. “Horticulture is all about trial and error.”
Hoya quotes a famous horticulturist who once said, “I only succeed with the 600 different species I grow here because of the 6,000 I’ve killed along the way.”
“I’ve always thought of that as valuable insight: Plants are living things, and living things vary and have infinite responses to their environments. It’s easy for people to forget that. You get to know them as you do people, over time, and through understanding their needs and individual personalities.”
Ryan Short contributed to this article.
North Haven Gardens, 7700 Northaven Road. 214-363-5316. NHG.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 21, 2006.