Jungle Music Palms and Cycads Nursery

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by Phil Bergman


Creating a Lush Tropical Garden is Always About The Plant Selection

This article describes what should be the most important consideration in your landscape project.  If you don't apply this concept, you may be disappointed over time with the results of your landscape job.

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  • (At the end of this article is a link to a comprehensive article on garden design factors with many tropical photographs)

                                    LUSH TROPICAL LANDSCAPE
                                                                  Lush landscape, photo by BGL


When someone visits a public botanical garden or a very nice private garden, one is left with an impression.  And, typically this impression is mostly about the beautiful plant material just seen.  Most other features of a garden like pathways, decks and lookout points should be designed to look at the plants.   The point of this article is to remind people when they landscape their garden, remember the plants!  The plants chosen are the most important part of landscape design.  All other landscape ideas should work with and around the plants chosen.  These other things are not the most important thing.  You must remember to create a garden design with the primary emphasis on the plants.  

I am not discounting that many people may want  to add a pool, spa, BBQ or even a tennis court to their garden design.  These things are nice. If one wants these things, then they should plan them into the garden design.  But, with most people, I've found that their definition of landscape ideas seldom considers the species of botanical material chosen.  At best they'll select a theme like "tropical garden" or "desert garden" and let someone else decide which plants to utilize.  Landscaping ideas are quite easy to come up with when one considers a pool, BBQ or deck.  It's easy to conceptualize these things. Imagining what plants to utilize is quite foreign to most people.  

Consider this: think about the term "tropical landscape".  What comes to mind?  Plants, of course.  However, the first step when people start to develop a tropical landscape is to consider a pool, BBQ or deck. It's sort of backwards, isn't it?  When you don't put the effort into selecting the best plants, your overall project may not become what you had envisioned.  It will be incomplete.  And, it certainly will lack botanical charm or distinction.  If a person doesn't know the plants or doesn't have the time to research it, it is imperative that he get professional help in selecting the appropriate and sought after plant material.  Let the plants be the primary driving force is guiding your landscaping ideas.

Whether you are considering a backyard garden design or just looking for landscaping ideas, the selection of the plants should be given as much consideration as the hardscape.  A well designed garden should have people looking with amazement and pointing towards plants saying "What is that beautiful plant?".  The hardscape works in concert with the plants.  And, the plants will show off the hardscape and make it seem even more impressive.  With inappropriate or boring planted material, the hardscape will not be appreciated nearly as much.

Landscape design and selection of plants

When one first decides to landscape the garden, he typically has a concept or idea in mind.  The garden design in his mind might be to "look just like Hawaii" or simply to have a tropical theme.  Or, he might select a more formal garden design.  Despite which home landscape ideas he has in mind, plants are always part of the project.  To accomplish his goal, he must follow one of several paths to make it happen. 

He might tackle it totally on his own.  Many do this.  This means studying books and the Internet to come up with landscape ideas.  He'll comb through everything he can find.  But, as you can imagine, this can take an immense amount of time and he might just get frustrated with all those Latin plant names.  And, he might not get a good feel for which species fit best into his garden landscape design. 

A second option is for this person to hire someone else to give him ideas and plans for his project.  This is especially important when hardscape features are needed which the client cannot do himself.  Professionals typically considered include a landscape architect, a garden designer or a landscape contractor.  This consumer has decided he wants to "leave it to the professional".  So, things get going.  Eventually a concept or garden landscape design is created. 

0n a typical landscape project, over 95% of the design time and effort goes into the hardscape, both by the professional and by the consumer. Once a plan is created, the client typically spends enormous amounts of time picking out the right light fixtures, the design of the decks, the shape of the pool, the appropriate material for walkways, stucco colors, sound systems, etc.  When it comes to the plants they might say something like "I would prefer a big plant over there and a little colorful one here".  Sometimes this is about all the thought that the consumer gives when discussing the actual plants utilized.  Or, they might say "give me some big hedges over there" to block out the neighbor's view.  How can this be if the garden is really about the plants?  It would appear that the garden design just got shortchanged. 

The problem we see here is that the homeowner typically doesn't know much about the plants.  He can solve hardscape questions: which tile, which fixtures, what color of stucco, etc.  But questions about and selections of plant species is just not something that he knows or can confront.  To solve this problem, the consumer often counts on the professional to guide him and select the plant material.  After all, they are the "experts".  And, to this expert, he might just say "put in pretty plants".  With the premise that the garden is mostly about the plants, you can see that the plants will get shortchanged unless he has a professional with a good knowledge of and lots of experience with the plants.  It's almost a given that the consumer didn't ask the professional about his knowledge of plants.  But, that would be the first thing I recommend that a reader do if hiring such a professional.   If neither you nor you professional has a comprehensive knowledge of the plants, how could you possibly expect to get anything other than the commonly used ordinary plants? 

Hiring professional help

As mentioned above, professional help can come in the form of a landscape architect, a garden designer or a landscape contractor. 

Landscape architects have the most formal education training of this group.  To be successful, they must have a vast knowledge of many items involved in landscape.  This includes knowledge of design, structure, engineering, electrical concerns, drainage, soil stability, lighting, safety, and many other things.  But, are they experts with the plants?  There are some architects with a good knowledge of tropical plants.  But, in my experience, there are many others that merely work off a list of "tried and true" species that are commonly used.  It is indeed rare to meet a landscape architect who has a comprehensive knowledge of such plants as palms and cycads. There are some that do, but way too feew of them.  For most, it's a lot easier to just put in the same species as they did on the last job. Such a shortcoming is understandable in view of the fact that these professionals are responsible for a lot of aspects of the project.  I personally really enjoy working with landscape architects who admit their knowledge of the palms and cycads is limited, but are willing to talk with us about different species and suggestions.  I've found that, when I work with such a professional, the results are typically great and the customer is very satisfied. 

How it typically works with a landscape architect is that he draws up a plan calling for certain species of plants in certain container size in a specific areas of the project.  A contactor is then hired by you based on his bid, reputation, etc.  The contractor who is hired then buys the plants at the best price he can.  Guaranteed that the contractor will buy the cheapest available plant in the container called for.  He won't seek out the best "value" for the customer.  That's just how it works.  For best results, I've been impressed with landscape architects who select certain key plants (literally particular plants from a certain nursery that they specify) and these actual plants are called for and to be used on the project.  This way both the architect and the client receive the exact plants they want.     

Regarding landscape contractors, they often have less knowledge of rare plants than the landscape architects.  Some are quite educated on rare plants, but the majority are not.  If an architect is utilized and plans drawn up for specific species, contractors follow the architect's instructions and plant according to the plans.  If there is no architect, contractors almost universally will go to the same nursery they always go to and select the same species they always use.  It makes life simple for them.  Although there are exceptions, most don't have the experience or knowledge when it comes to unusual or different plants to utilize.  Also, they've got other things on their minds and are often under to the gun to finish the project on time. 

Regarding garden designers as a group, they are less formally educated on garden issues but many times have good ideas and experience.  As expected, some are more knowledgeable about palms and cycads than others.  But, don't expect them to be experts on everything.  They too, just like the other professionals above, might need help from a nurseryman expert who grows lots of different species.   I work with them from time to time.

If you do decide to use a professional in designing or creating your garden, remember to ask them about their knowledge of the plants.  And, tell them that you want to use more unusual and desirable species of plants.   Left unsaid, the chances are that you will get very commonly utilized species of plants.  At the tail end of the project, it is often too late.  We work with all these professionals and can give them ideas about plants that would be be different and beautiful and also thrive in the customers exact locality.  Just tell them to call us.         

Tropical Plants - Which to Select

As mentioned above, the best time to really think about the plants you want is in the very beginning of the garden design project.  If you are at the tail end, it may be a big problem for you to change things.  I can say that countless times I've been contacted by homeowners who have gotten to the planting stage of the project and decided that they really don't want the typical "depot store plants".  They have finally started to think about the plants and come to realize that they are about to receive the usual formula of Queen Palms, Pigmy Dates and perhaps a Sago Palm. 

A contactor will typically purchase and plant your plants at the tail end of the project.  If you completely change your selection on him, the chances are that your contractor will start screaming "foul".  At this stage he's thinking about wrapping up the job and now he's got to put time and money into doing something he's probably not familiar with.  And, he probably did not calculate into his financial plan anything but the most affordable and common species.  He had a budget for the plants and different selections may eat into his profits.  Avoid all this.  Think about the plants from the beginning! 

Getting the most beautiful plants for your project

How does one avoid this dilemma?  One way is to hire an architect or contractor who will actually give you the plants you want .  Tell him early in the game that you don't want the usual selection of plants that everyone else has.  He'll probably work with you if you tell him this upfront. 

Another approach is to have your contractor have a "plant budget" and allow you at the right point to go out and select the plants you want and have them delivered to your job site.  Of course, he will plant them but you picked exactly what you like. 

A third approach would be to have your contractor not to include the prices of any plants in his bid and only charge you for planting what is selected by you.  This may cut into the profit he adds on to those common plants, but he'll get over that if you persist.  

A final approach would be for you to do all your homework beforehand and tell the architect or contractor exactly what species you want planted.  You can see that all of these approaches must be set in motion early in the game.  Don't let the plants be the last thing on your shopping list!  Whether you're doing a whole yard garden design or just looking for landscaping ideas, consider putting in just as much thought into the plants as you would in selecting the right hardscape.     

tropical entryway
Entryway with rare plants

tropical landscape
Lush species along a walkway

garden design an exotic palm species
A nice combination of rare plants showing off this garden

garden design with companion plants
Rare plants involved with the hardscape

garden desing
A combination of many different types of interesting plants

tropical landscape
There are lots of different sizes and shapes of cycads

landscape design using palms and cycads
Garden design and ideas

Garden design utilzing companion plants
Garden Design using companion plants

garden design
Landscape with palms & cycads

Landscape of garden showing palm trunks
Garden Landscape with palm trunks showing


Give thought to the species you select!

This is where knowledge of the plants comes to play. Picking out the right species can make the difference between an average result or a stunning garden.  Start doing your own homework early or contact a nursery like ours.  Nurserymen typically know the plants quite well, typically much better than your selected professional. 

For years the staff at Jungle Music has been assisting clients and professionals in selecting species to make their garden unique and beautiful.  We do this on a regular basis.  We typically utilize an vast array of photographs to guide the consumer or professional in selecting the species he likes the most.  And, at the nursery and for customers, we do this as a free service.  We consider your area, cultural requirements, your specific needs (tall, short, sunny, shady, etc.) and can typically come up with a selection of plants that will create the garden of your dreams.  We can help with plant placement and layout.  It is actually quite simple for us and everyone typically has a lot of fun coming up with the perfect botanical landscaping ideas.  .

Or, if more intensive help is needed and you're in our area, we can sometimes offer local consultative help right at your home.  But, for most customers, if you merely drop by the nursery, in short order we can help you select the perfect palate of species for your project.  If you're the type who likes to do homework on your own, the following link is a quick and easy way to get started and see a lot of species available:  PalmBuyersGuide   And, if you don't live in our locality, we can help you with possible choices for your area and ship plants right to your door.  Regardless of how you do it, we recommend that you choose beautiful species that will really make your garden distinctive and make your hardscape even more impressive.  



an unimaginative garden design
Don't let this be your landscape

garden design with palms
With time, you'll have your own enchanted paradise


Remember, the plants you select are ultimately the most important factor in your landscape design and project.  Always plan ahead so you really get that garden of your dreams.  If you utilize a specialist like an architect or contractor, let them know at the onset that you want a selection of unusual and beautiful plants, not routine species.  Guide them such that you don't get the usual array of "depot store" type plants.  If you mention nothing, they'll think it's not important to you.  If needed, we are available to help you with your selections or consult your hired professional.  Also, our website has a vast number of articles for those seeking more information about palms and cycads. 

Phil Bergman

Owner - Jungle Music Palms and Cycads


Jungle Music Palm Trees, Cycads and Tropical Plants
Nursery Location: 450 Ocean View Ave, Encinitas, CA 92024
Phone: 619 2914605
Hours: Open Monday - Saturday, 9AM to 4
Website:  www.junglemusic.net     (return home page)

Directions to nursery:  Take Freeway 5 to Encinitas
(10 minutes south of Oceanside, 30 minutes north of San Diego).
Exit Leucadia Blvd West (toward ocean).  Immediate left on Orpheus Ave,
left on Union St, Right on Ocean View Ave to 450 Ocean View Ave

Delivery available to all states. 



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Last modified: May 19, 2021


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