Oh no, not again!


I’ve made mistakes in planning and planting the garden, plenty of them! In some parts of the garden it’s difficult to distinguish where one plant starts and the other ends. There is a mass of foliage with differing textures and colors, and here and there a bunching of flowers or berries will poke out. It didn’t start out that way. When I began this garden I was anxious for it to grow in, but I gave conifers and Japanese maples adequate spacing, or so I thought.

I didn’t anticipate that the golden threadbranch cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Aurea’) would grow eighteen feet tall, and nearly as wide. Long ago there was seven or eight feet between the cypress and a pendulous branched Norway spruce (Picea abies ‘Pendula’), but today they have grown together. The result is not so horrible, but the character of each plant would be appreciated more if they were given more space.

Long after these mistakes were made and the upper part of the rear garden had turned to jungle, I constructed a large pond halfway to the back of the rear garden. By now I had learned some lessons, and I was determined to give the small trees and larger shrubs in the garden surrounding the pond a bit more space. Between these I would plant perennials or plants that could be easily transplanted when space began to be tight.

At this point let us stop for a moment of excuse making and to pass the buck around a bit. I warn you never to fully trust plant references to tell you how large a plant will grow, or at least view them with skepticism. Nursery plant tags are never to be trusted. I don’t know if references intentionally fib to get me to purchase more plants (which is fine by me), but everything I plant gets larger than it’s supposed to. Not over twenty or thirty years, but in a hurry, it seems.

I have just checked again to be certain that my memory’s not failing me, and most references say that paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha, above) will grow four to six feet tall and wide. In my garden it did that. By the third year! I’m fairly certain that it won’t get much taller than the four to five feet in height that it’s grown, but it’s ten feet wide, maybe twelve. Who knows what’s been overwhelmed in its path.

I noticed recently that the tall autumn flowering Tatarian daisy (Aster tataricus ‘Jindai’, above) that grows by the pond’s edge is fully budded, ready to bloom. But, I noticed from across the pond because I can’t get anywhere close to it without a machete. The paperbush is mostly to blame, but so are the fillers that were supposed to be moved when spacing got tight. Whose idea was that? Whoever thought that tall, wiry rooted perennials could be untangled and dug to be moved? Where would I stand to begin digging? It’s ludicrous!

And so I’ve done it again! Recent storms have helped to open up parts of the garden. The Seven Son Tree (Heptacodium miconiodes, above) was snapped off at its base, and though I hoped for a short while that suckers would sprout from the roots, none have. I struggled to decide what should replace this wonderful multi trunked tree, and choices were discarded as too large, too small, or mostly too ordinary.

Finally, I have settled on a red horsechestnut (Aesculus × carnea, above), which will eventually grow a bit too tall and wide for the spot, but slowly enough that I’ll be dead and  gone by the time it’s a problem. Now that it’s planted I’m concerned that it looks a little lonely, with much less mass than the wide spreading Seven Son. I know that it’ll get there soon enough, but I considered planting another something to help fill the space. You’ll be proud that I decided against it. At least for now.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. James says:

    Dave….Your experiences with growth rates of plants/bushes are similar to ours. Thank goodness your designers helped us pick some boxwoods that are slow growing and deer resistant. I prune them about every third year just to keep them at window sill level. But out in the back yard, where size is not an issue, the boxwood (not sure the variety) has grown to easily 15 feet across and eight feet high. It’d be bigger than that if I didn’t prune it occasionally. It’s been in that spot since 1982 and has certainly served its purpose, but we often chuckle at how big it would actually get if we left it alone. The deer leave it alone, and that’s a good thing. Do such bushes have a life span? The pacysandra (sp?) ground cover has moved under the boxwood much faster than I thought, so this fall I’ll be pulling much of it out and replanting somewhere else. That stuff is hardy, to say the least, and again the deer leave it alone. (Yes, I’m paranoid about deer, and yes, I do spray about every mohth.)

    1. Dave says:

      I joke that plants continue to grow, until they die. So, the ultimate size of a plant is largely determined by its lifespan. Some plants have lifespans of only a few decades, where some boxwood hedges in Europe were planted centuries ago.

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