One of my friends has helped me several times now choosing plants for my garden, advising me on putting them in, and so forth. F and I first went to a garden shop last summer for plants for my shaded area and a small sunny area. F's a good garden guide, and asked me what sorts of plants I really liked and wanted in my garden. Alas, I gave her a rather blank look; I just wanted stuff that would grow where I had room and not take too much effort because I'm a lazy bum.
Turns out, my lack of real preference for specific types of plants rather shocked my gardening friend. Seems she's been gardening since she was a small tot, and has strong affections for certain species and cultivars, even.
I've been thinking about the garden I'm trying to have now, and the garden my folks had when I was a kid. I spent a lot of time in that garden, and felt a fair affection for the yard and such. But living in the upper midwest means that almost none of the plants I grew up with in that rather temperate area survive here. I've lived here long enough to understand that, but not long enough to know most of the plants around here or to have developed real affection for them.
There's a notable exception. I love Tamaracks (aka Larches). There's something deeply appealing in the softness of their needle things. But, the first time I had a Tamarack in my yard, when fall came, it turned yellow and I thought I'd killed it. I was miserable until I mentioned it to someone who'd been in my yard, how I was heartbroken about killing this tree, and he told me about the whole turning yellow thing with Tamaracks. I thought they were like Pines or Spruces, but they're not!
I'm sure a real gardener would have grown to know the local plants by now, but I'm not any sort of real gardener.
I'm much better about learning the birds in this area, though I sometimes have to think twice (or more) when I realize that my first thought about a sparrow doesn't make sense here.