Gardening 101: How to Plant like a Professional

“But it was so small and cute when I bought it!”

I hear some variation of this statement a few times per year from slightly frustrated homeowners who have either 1) a 20’ blue spruce planted so close to their home that the branches scratch the windows and peel off roof shingles any time the wind blows or, 2) an eight-foot burning bush which, after a few years in the ground, has not only blocked their view from the dining room window, it’s grown large enough to have developed its own gravity which it uses to gather leaves from all over the neighborhood.

Sometimes it’s magnolias, sometimes it’s ornamental grasses. Whatever the plant, though, the cause is the same. A homeowner sees a beautiful plant in a small pot at the garden center and determines that 1) it must be owned prior to knowing the plant’s growth potential and, 2) it must be planted prior to knowing the plant’s growth potential.

It’s not only these scenarios, however. I frequently see shade plants with scorched leaves, planted in full sun. I see spindly sun plants languishing in the shade. Wet plants where it’s dry and dry plants where it’s wet. Impulse buys, methinks.

There was a very popular book written in the 90’s or perhaps early 2000’s called Right Plant, Right Place. In great depth, it discussed how to make sure the problems that I’ve just described don’t become your problems, among other things – plants for this situation, and plants for that. A good summary for the book, and a good lesson for those who want to avoid cutting down their beloved spruce is this: Read the tag.

Most plant tags will provide good information about the plant’s growth potential, spacing recommendations, cultural conditions, flowering time, etc. This information then can [should] be used to determine whether or not you have enough space for the plant to mature. If the plant matures at 15’ wide, does the forever home that you’re dreaming of for it allow for maturity, or only for a few years’ growth before it needs to be cut down? Similarly, if you’re adding a larger, structural plant to a full-sun perennial bed, will the new plant eventually cast too much shade over your sun garden? Do the Endless Summer hydrangeas look tempting, but your beds face south? Read the tag. Are you considering a Knock-Out rose for that shady north side? Read the tag. Or grill someone in the sales yard for more information. Whichever.

Though we can all read the tag, sometimes the questions are more than the tag can answer. Perhaps you’d also like to know which plants will complement each other; which can be used to accent various architectural features of you home. If you’d like help with any of these types of questions, or if you’d like a designer to help you along, we’d be happy to help. The consultations are free.

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