Rain Gardens

As homeowners learn to appreciate their soils, garden design has taken on a new meaning [source: New York Times ]. Dry areas blossom with the right type of plants; low-lying wet land becomes an explosion of flowers after a rain shower, April or not. If you happen to live in one of these low-lying wetland areas, consider adding a rain garden to your landscape. These "depressions" catch runoff and drain within a few hours. Best of all, you leave the watering to Mother Nature, plants such as water garden plants -- mostly natives to an area -- develop deep root systems and flourish on their own [source: Metzger]

Soil Types and Plant Growth

The best move you can make in landscaping is developing a good plan. By identifying your soil and watering needs, you're on your way. Then add plants and watch that plan bloom.

When you add flowers, shrubs or trees to your yard, you are beautifying the space and helping the soil maintain its moisture and nutritional value. Adding native plants, or those which are naturally occurring in a certain region, gives you more freedom as well, since native plants may require less maintenance than other flora [source: EPA]. As you pick your plants, keep in mind that root systems can thrive in some soils and flop in others. Here we offer a few proven plants for your soil type, but by contacting your state's extension office, you can always learn more about plants native to your region.

Sandy soils: Because this soil holds little water, evergreens like Adam's needle or bearberry do well in this landscape, and both thrive in full sun. Sumac, trumpet vine and Virginia creeper also enjoy the sandy soils, and they add an impressive mix of vines and shrub cover. If flowers are your passion, try planting grevilleas or daises. No matter what you bury in the sand, remember that adding compost will help retain moisture.

Clay soils: Trees do well in clay soils. Elm, maple, Cypress, birch and oak trees can thrive here, adding beneficial shade and durability. While perennials take some work, hardier varieties such as the aster, black-eyed Susan or the daylily do well in clay with extra compost. Not only do these plants look nice, they add a barrier against erosion, which we'll look at next.