The Dry Garden: Being John Goodman

Posted on | October 21, 2011 | 2 Comments

Left to their own devices, these newly planted New Zealand flaxes, called Phormium 'Sea Jade,' would each reach five feet in diameter -- fast. They've been put in a new public garden one-foot-on-center to create a quick sense of fill. Nurseries and landscape designers take the praise and money and then run. The facilities manager who inherits this garden, or the homeowner who innocently emulates it, will be left with an ensuing maintenance nightmare.

The single hardest thing to remember in fall planting season is restraint. After summer dormancy, everything looks so fresh. Salvias are pushing out their autumn blooms. We gardeners are full of pent-up expectation. Everything feels possible! Many things are. Keep that elation. Just resist the urge to crowd young plants during installation, a temptation so strong that almost everyone does it.

The problem may be that we treat young plants like babies, which in some ways they are. Like us, they start small and then grow. But we replace cribs with twin beds and twin beds with double beds and may even redo the basement so a 6-foot-tall baby can have a queen. With plants, you have to start out envisioning a queen-sized bed for the newborn or, in the case of many shrubs and woody perennials, you can easily end up with the horticultural equivalent of John Goodman in a crib.

Click here to keep reading about plant spacing in The Dry Garden in the Los Angeles Times.


2 Responses to “The Dry Garden: Being John Goodman”

  1. Matt H
    October 21st, 2011 @ 10:53 am

    Who hasn’t done this? I made this mistake with tomatoes more than once, and ended up with a jumble of vines and little fruit (veg?).

  2. EmilyGreen
    October 21st, 2011 @ 10:56 am

    I have done it many times and regretted it every time, more with every year that passes.

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