Spaced Out. Me, or the Plants?

There are times when I group plants too close together on purpose. I've learned this through the experience of what can happen to new plants within the realms of a very large garden. There are also factors like deer, rabbits, hot sun, humidity, drought and overwintering to consider. Although it takes a little longer to figure out the best, and prettiest, plants for my garden, I think I will save money and disappointment in the long run.

Will Bambi Like the New Plant?

I like to place new "deer resistant" plants at the edge of the outer gardens where the deer can't help but stumble over the newcomers. If the deer are going to eat a plant, I want to know as soon as possible so that I can get over it and get on with my life.

Pass me a tissue because I'm crying and trying to get over a recent loss. The deer munched a gorgeous rose of sharon down to a skeleton. I enjoyed the flowers and rich foliage for a month. The fantastic blooms were huge and I suppose the deer thought that the blooms were blue plate specials delivered by a local diner! This dashed my dreams, but I'm glad that I purchased only one to test with my deer herd.

Is it the Right Plant for My Garden?

I grow plants in a small space to test for the growing conditions as well as the beauty and care of the plant. This way, I can make up mind on whether or not I like a plant before I redesign a section of the garden around it.

If the newcomers are grouped together in one small section, then I don't have to run all over the garden to check on them. This is a time saver and great for lazy and forgetful gardeners like me.

Agastache is among my favorite, reliably deer resistant perennials. I'm trying out several new varieties this year, so I grouped them together in a small section at the top edge of my outer gardens. I want to see how long each variety blooms, which require deadheading or if the bloom color fades quickly.

This is also a great way to try out companion plantings. While my test area is for determining which agastache will be planted in big drifts in the garden next year, I am actually pretty pleased by grouping several agastache varieties together to make a mixed drift.

Lost in Place or Not Made in the Shade?

Perennials in my garden seem to exceed the advertised size and mature quickly in my gardens with the good soil and long days of light.

If planted a little two-inch pot perennial with the older residents, the poor thing would not only be shaded out, but lost in place. I sometimes squeeze a new plant along a sunny edge of the garden where I won't have to crawl through the garden on my knees with a magnifying glass to check on the progress of the new addition. I can transplant it later to a more permanent location.

I recently stumbled over a poor little coreopsis that I thought had not survived. Turns out, I just forgot where it was located for the last two years! I may have to retract some unkind remarks about that coreopsis, but I can't even remember the name of the particular variety.

I may start my seeds along the edges next year as I cannot find several hundred cleome! Perhaps they couldn't germinate in the shade among the hoards of tall perennials? The seeds may just be on vacation and wait until I've sown another hundred seeds next spring and then the cleome will launch a massive takeover of my garden.

Measure Twice to Plant Once?

As for correct spacing, I thought I had spaced my plants with plenty of room to grow when I created a new area in the cottage garden in September 2008. Well, I don't know exactly why everything is now super sized and therefore, too crowded! The perennials look like mature plants that have overgrown their space. All of the annual seeds germinated. The plants either exceeded their advertised space requirements or I was having too much fun and not paying attention to details while digging the holes.

It's not a terrible problem, but it means that I'm going to have to do the plant shuffle again soon... this time, the plants will be spaced out, but not me.

Photos and words by Freda Cameron


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