Thoughts on how to create a well-designed garden retreat.

One size does not fit all

One of the most common landscape planting mistakes made is to plant a plant that will get too big for it’s space.  After a few years, the homeowner is left with two alternatives.  Either remove the plant completely or resign themselves to the chore of pruning the plant a couple times a year to keep it in check.  Once this pruning process begins, the plant loses it’s natural shape and form.

One thing we do when we measure a new client’s property is to measure how high the windows are from the ground.  If the bottom of the window is 4′ from the ground, then we select a plant that is not supposed to get taller than 4 feet.  Too often we see a Japanese holly planted in these situations and a Japanese holly will get anywhere from 6-10 feet tall.  They also will get just as wide and yet are often planted in between the house and sidewalk space that may also only be 4′ wide.  The garden then becomes a ball and chain for the homeowner.  Instead of enjoying their landscape, they have to spend several hours on the weekends just maintaining the space.

Now I know a garden takes some work.  But it doesn’t have to take more work than necessary.  By choosing the right plant for the right space, the homeowner has a lot less work.

One very common thing done in this area is to prune Crape Myrtles back hard each winter.  The theory is that since they bloom on new wood, then create more new wood for them.  However, this hard pruning destroys the natural beauty of a Crape myrtle.  Think of it this way.  Let’s say the Crape myrtle is 15′ tall.  The root system for the plant is sufficient for a 15′ tall plant.  Now someone comes in and cuts it down to 8′.  The roots still function as if they are supporting a 15′ tall plant.  When new growth begins in the spring, the new shoots shoot up to the 15′ height.  With plants, fast growth is weak growth, much like it is in business.  Then comes the summer bloom season.  The flowers are heavy, especially after a rain and the blooms flop over.  Now the plant looks all out of shape.  It is then a never-ending battle to keep the plant looking right.  Then every winter, the plant is pruned back to the same 8′ height.  The plant never achieves the glory it could have.

It’s like a cute young child.  You can hope to keep them young and cute but eventually they become teenagers.  If you don’t allow them to grow as they should, you will have some deformed adults on your hands.


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