A plant in your garden that doesn’t need mushroom? (aka: much room?)

A few years back I arrived at a client’s home for an initial garden consultation. Each consultation usually begins the same way. I like to have the the client show me around their property so I can get a general idea of their style, preferred colours and their level of interest in gardening. I also like to see where the sun hits their gardens, the existing plant material and anything that has been planted recently.

On this particular day, the client was eager to show me around the property. When we got to the North side of the house (where there was very little sun and a lot of mature trees) she pointed out the newly planted shrub beside the deck. She was so proud of her new little (and I do mean little) plant. It was a Buddleia davidii ‘Black Knight’ (Black Knight butterfly bush). This beauty was planted within about 2″ of two sides of the deck in a corner beside the steps. To someone who wasn’t an enthusiastic gardener, it would seem fine. It probably came in a 2 Gal. container from the garden centre. Seeing it’s current size, it would seem perfectly reasonable to plant it in that small space. Had it been a mound of friendly Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Snow Lady’ (Shasta Daisy), I would have been happy for her. However, knowing the size of of this plant at maturity posed a slight problem for me, not to mention the shrub. If the shrub was left in that particular location, it would survive but definitely not thrive. As we continued our tour my mind raced with images of the fully mature shrub cascading over the steps blocking her from getting to the BBQ while her steaks went up in flames. Needless to say, we found a new home for that little guy and he did thrive in all his glory!

So here’s the scoop! Take a look at these photos of young plants vs. mature plants below.

As you can see from the photos above, plants grow and evolve over time. What we see or even read on the tags when we are in a garden centre is not always accurate. Taking into consideration that different locations, soil types, sun exposure and general care will all affect how or if plants thrive, we can easily end up planting the wrong plant in the wrong space. That being said, the wonderful thing about gardening is that you can choose what you want to plant where. The downside is, it can have long term effects on the heath of your plants. It may interfere with a walkway or obstruct a view which could be a safety issue. You may have to move your plant in 2-5 years which can be a grueling task digging up roots (I’ve actually had to use a chainsaw to cut up and extract some overgrown perennial grasses).

Here are 5 tips if you are installing a new garden or giving your existing garden a facelift:

  1. Measure your entire garden before you buy plants. (length x width)
  2. Ask a knowledgeable plant specialist about the kind of plants you are considering and whether they are suitable for your space.
  3. Purchase plants based on attributes like size at maturity, colour, texture and sun/shade requirements, not by impulse, pressure from a sales person or how it looks in the container.
  4. Consider how the placement will affect your surroundings. A good rule of thumb is to consider people, places and things.
  5. Before you plant, space your plants out (by measuring) to allow for future growth even if you think your new garden looks sparse. It won’t take long before it looks full and lush.

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