A satisfied client is a landscaping professional’s best reference. Because happy homeowners will help you to build your business, it’s crucial to choose plants that will help them maintain vibrant, hassle-free landscapes.
Hybrid plants—crosses between two stable varieties of plants that are bred to look better, perform better, be more disease resistant and withstand climatic conditions—can create beautiful, easy-to-maintain landscapes all year round, says P. Allen Smith, a garden designer and host of the public television program P. Allen Smith's Garden Home and the syndicated TV program P. Allen Smith Gardens.
“We’re in the service industry, and we have to make our clients happy,” says Smith, who owns the Little Rock, Ark.-based landscape and design company P. Allen Smith & Associates. “Our challenge is creating a beautiful landscape for them. By being careful about the plants you choose and by choosing the right hybrids, your landscapes are going to look better longer and with less care.”
Creating a hybrid
To create a hybrid, growers scour fields or forests of plants to find the best three to four plants, Smith says. They then take the pollen from one plant and pollinate the other. Once a seed is produced, they take the seed from the plant and sow those seeds to get a stronger next generation of plants.
The pink Supertunia Vista Bubblegum, a popular hybrid plant for example, shows higher heat tolerance, tolerance to salt, strong disease resistance and produced more flowers per season than its parent plants, Smith says.
“When a plant is in the wild, it’s putting up with a lot,” Smith says. “If you bring the pioneer qualities back to the bloodline, you get a stronger next generation.”
Select prime hybrids
Hybrids are easy to find: Most plants sold in nurseries today are hybrids, Smith says. Selecting the right hybrid for your client is a matter of learning which qualities the plant is bred for.
Thomas Tavella, past president of the American Society of Landscape Architects, says new species of flowers, trees, shrubs and all kinds of plants are created every year.
“New species come out every year, and we have the opportunity to talk with nursery workers to discover what’s ideal for our clients,” Tavella says.
So if your client wants a colorful yard, suggest perennials or shrubs such as hybrid azaleas that have a long bloom life, or Autumn Blaze maple trees, which produce leaves that look like they’re on fire in the fall, Tavella says.
Choose native species
Although hybrids offer you more options for your landscapes, it’s important to select plants that are native to your region.
Both Tavella and Smith warn that exotic plants—or plants that are non-native to the region—could choke native plants and become invasive, like the Kudzu vine, a native of Asia that was introduced into the U.S. in 1876, Smith says.
“We still use native plants, but we have a variety of choice with hybrids,” Tavella says. “There’s a place for ornaments, but we plant them sparsely and use them for accents.”
Get more bang for the buck
Of course, the best way to keep homeowners pleased with their landscapes is to not only offer them the best quality plants, but to give them plants that will save them money.
Tavella says planting native hybrids often mean that clients are watering plants less frequently, preventing a pest infestation or not calling a team for maintenance as often, allowing them to save time and money on the upkeep of a landscape.
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