Do you have trees or shrubs that have outgrown their bounds and need pruning more than once a year? Or do you have plants that just don’t look their best or need a lot of attention? If either answer is yes, it’s not necessarily a bad plant; it may have just been planted in the wrong location.
One of the most important principles in landscape design and a favorite phrase of Master Gardeners is “right plant, right place.” Plants don’t get a say where we locate them, and one of the most common gardening pitfalls is locating a plant in the wrong spot or planting too close together. I nicknamed this notion “right plant, wrong place” because there is no wrong plant per se. A plant placed in the right location should rarely need more than ordinary care, entailing only an infrequent pruning to maintain shape or clean up, and regular watering during hot or dry periods. In general terms, plants placed in the right location, planted and mulched correctly, should perform well with minimal care and grow more beautiful and lush as each season passes.
One of my highest goals as a landscape designer is to plant sustainably, selecting and locating plants so that they will thrive and live out their lifespan. That said, Mother Nature is always throwing curve balls, and best efforts and practices can sometimes still see an occasional failure. That should be kept to a minimum following some basic guidelines.
Each area around your home has its own unique challenges and requirements. Following, and in parts 2 and 3, are landscaping guides for specific areas. I’ve included a few of my very favorite plants with descriptions of why I love them. Several different cultivars and sizes are available of many of the noted plants; many are deer resistant.
Spacing plants appropriately away from exterior walls is particularly important for several reasons. The footing of your home is around 18” below ground and projects away from the wall, so the area closest to the wall is actually a land-locked zone where there is limited soil and water available. Masonry foundations also leach alkalinity into the soil, raising the pH. Many native plants prefer acidic soils so this can stress some plants positioned too close to the wall. Foliage also needs good air circulation, another reason not to plant too close. My rule of thumb is to plant shrubs a minimum of three feet from the wall to the center line of the shrub; larger shrubs or small trees should of course be planted even farther away.
Next, Right Plant, Right Place, part 2.
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