Once your beds are ready, you start the hunt for the perfect plant varieties you have carefully chosen as you were making your garden plan. One of the challenges and also the greatest satisfactions in gardening may be in creating pleasing plant combinations which together have a greater impact than the individual plants. Look for your plants at local nurseries and plant sales. The Snohomish County MG Plant Sale is typically the Saturday before Mother’s Day, so this year it is May 7, 2011. The Miller Horticultural Library lists plant sales and other plant sources on their website. Sometimes you can find a hard to locate plant by mail order; be SURE to check out all online and mail order nurseries at a consumer watchdog site such as this one. Make sure the plant you want to buy looks healthy and free from visible pests. Plants with discolored, curled or wilting leaves should be avoided; look under the leaves, too. Check the tag-some plants are supposed to have unusually colored leaves. The plant should be the right size for the pot; why pay for a 4” sized plant in a gallon pot? Do not be afraid to carefully slip the plant out of the pot to check the roots which should be pale and clean looking. If the roots wind tightly around in the pot, the plant is root bound. Sometimes, I find a plant for which I’ve long been searching and it is root bound. If it a good price and looks otherwise healthy, I’ll buy it. It will require more TLC at planting, but I’ve rarely been disappointed. Remember that smaller pots are cheaper than larger and by the end of the season there will be little difference in size of the plant. Keep your plants well watered and out of full sun until they are planted. If you are starting in early spring, make sure the ground is not too wet to plant. Pick up a good size handful of soil and squeeze it together. If it sticks together, you need to wait a bit longer. If it falls easily apart, the soil is ready to work. I’ve seen workable soil described as having the texture of chocolate cake, but that is self-defeating as it just makes me want to hang up my tools and go bake. Cool misty days are perfect for planting and we have lots of those. However, I’ve been known to move a rose bush in full bloom in the middle of August at noon and have it survive. Plants are sturdier than we think. Plan before you plant-you may want to place the plants in their pots in the places where you intend to install them. Be sure to allow space for the mature size of the plant. Plants should not be planted closer than the sum of their width at maturity divided by 2. Dig the hole and, unless the soil is already damp, fill the hole with water. Allow it to drain completely. (This previous post discusses what to do if it doesn’t drain-but hopefully you have already determined the drainage quality of your soil.) Soak the plant-still in the pot-in a bucket of water until the bubbles stop. If you have opted to buy a plant with a solid root mass, slice downward around the edges of the root ball to encourage outward growth. Plant at the same level as in the pot, firm it down and water well. If the weather is hot and dry, make a rim of soil around the edge of the hole at soil level to hold the water directly over the root ball as it soaks in. If the soil has been amended with compost, no fertilizer is needed and might burn the roots if used. Osmacote is an example of a slow release fertilizer that won’t burn roots, but remember that it does not begin to work until the soil temperature reaches about 70°. Keep an eye on your new plants for a week to 10 days, especially if it is hot, sunny or windy. A delicate specimen may need to be shaded for a few days if the sun is intense. Even drought tolerant plants will need consistent water during their first season in your garden.