Nevermore (plant more than you need)

For some time, I had a simple approach to planting in my garden. Rule # 1: collect and treasure more and ever more plants and (lovingly) stuff them into any space in the garden that is available, or semi-available. No matter where that plant was from, it had a home with me. No plant left behind,  sums it up. This worked for a while, then a secondary rule sprouted all by itself no doubt in response to rule # 1. Rule# 2: make the plant beds smaller and the paths much bigger. You can see where this is going, right?

small bench with azaleas (2)

Years ago, I created a circular bed  in my back garden, in memory of my parents. I am too embarrassed to tell the actual dimensions of the circle, as  I chose to ignore my mathematically correct side and planted 5 azaleas and 3  dwarf red leaf azaleas around a dwarf red leaf plum tree. My mother  had a red leaf plum tree in her childhood garden in Germany, and  I wanted that red leaf plum tree in my design. Even if it had been a dwarf plum tree, which it was not- it would have been too big. The red leaf plum tree was 25’ tall instead of 10-12’ tall and made a magnificent statement in summer and fall with its deep glorious red leaves and tiny burgundy plums in spring.  The tree was too big, it had to come down and I was broken hearted. The azaleas grew enormous and needed heavy pruning each year as they formed an impenetrable barrier around the center where I had planted hellebores, hyacinths, snowdrops and bearded iris. In the struggle for survival, two of the dwarf azaleas were completely squished by their bigger and tougher relatives. Two out of the 5 large azaleas got a virus and had to be chopped down to their roots. They immediately sprung back at twice their size and then succumbed to some kind of wilt.hellebore

This week, I was busy enlarging the path around the memorial garden -blindly following rule#2 when I saw that the wilted azaleas were in the direct line for the new enlarged paths. At this point, rule #1- the rule that wanted every plant in the known Universe to be represented, fought head–to-head with rule 2# which said:-look, there’s only so much you can do in a limited space and with your limited time, and is it really healthy for the plants to be crammed into a space that is getting smaller and smaller?

It was the classic battle between the heart and the head. So I compromised. I dug up the wilted azaleas and enlarged the paths which made the memorial garden  slightly smaller with less than half the plants in it. With three large azaleas instead of 5,  I can easily reach the center of the bed to tend the hellebores, snowdrops and hyacinths and there is room for the dwarf azalea to spread and show off. It looks great and is simple to maintain.

snowdrops in garden

Less is definitely more. I’ve changed from planting ever more to never more plants than is needed. Give the plants room to grow and plant them in the right space to start with. If the plant label says that the plant grows well in Siberia-put that plant back on the shelf in the nursery and say adios, amigo. Unless you live in Siberia, that is.

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