I'm the new owner of a well established garden. Unfortunately I don't really know what I'm doing...

Already I seem to have lots of problems (e.g. well established Rhododendron now near death), which I hope to post questions about individually. But for now..

What advice would you give to a gardening newbie, to help get on top of the situation?

Perhaps you could tell me what I should be doing at a minimum to maintain the health of the garden, before I get properly up to speed?

Some of my problems:

  • I don't know what most of the plants are, and its proving very difficult to identify them
  • I'm finding it difficult to distinguish between weeds and garden plants.
  • Already some plants are looking very 'ill'

Thank you!

  • what part of the world do you garden in? Would you like to add some photos of plants you need to identify?
    – kevinskio
    Mar 9, 2012 at 13:26
  • @kevinsky - Thanks for response :) Europe, V.Cold winters, hot summers. Temps just coming back above freezing now. I will post some photos (need to take some), but though I'd do this as separate questions.
    – UpTheCreek
    Mar 9, 2012 at 13:44
  • 1
    If you have a garden that is more complex than you can handle you need to decide what you like and want to keep. Trees and shrubs should be your priority. Perennial plants can be replaced or simplified fairly easily.
    – kevinskio
    Mar 9, 2012 at 14:32
  • 1
    Also see here gardening.stackexchange.com/q/158/109 for some tips on resources/ways to identify plants. You can also post detailed images here with a good description of the plant, climate, environment, etc. and there might be someone who can identify it. Mar 10, 2012 at 16:45

1 Answer 1


Learning about plant varieties

The best way to learn different plants is to go to your local nursery. My observation is 90%, if not more, of what you and your neighbours have in your yard is the same as what is available in your local nursery. If you go there a few times and spend time looking at the different names you will start to realise that the variety is not that large.

We have a huge nursery nearby and I would suggest they wouldn't have more than 100 "types" of plant e.g. grasses, fruit trees, regular trees (maples etc.), succulents, roses, azaleas, camellias etc. You only need to know these larger groupings to know how to care for your plants. Then once you are familiar with the larger groupings you can start to learn each variety e.g. within fruit there are oranges, apples, mandarins etc.

Basic needs

Most plants have very basic needs: food, water and sunlight.

If a plant is put in the right place you usually don't have to worry about food and sunlight and in most cases water.

The problem is if you bought a house which has a high maintenance garden. For example you have many flowering plants which are planted in a location where they get too much sunlight and require daily watering. In this case you will notice many thirsty plants wilting in the sunshine.

What can you do

The best thing you can do until you start to get the hang of it is to ensure your plants have enough water. If you notice water is pooling at the bottom of the plant and is still quite moist the next day, then hold off watering in that location. With a decent watering routine your garden should be able to stay in a reasonable condition.

Then start reading and learning.

After that you can start picking up some advanced techniques:

  • Pruning
  • Pest and disease control
  • Mulching
  • Feeding

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