November 1, 2012

Large Forest Plants in Small Garden Borders

It is the first of the month and time to show you a gardening Oops. For more mistakes in the garden you can go to Joene's blog and see the errors others have made under Gardening Oops -- or GOOPs.

Associated Press picture (taken at Bridgeport CT 10/29/12)
Before I show you my silly mistake, I want to say that it simply doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter because my garden, my home, my loved ones and my neighbors were all safe through the terrible Storm Sandy that devastated the east coast.

I have no damage to the garden. The fact that I create self inflicted catastrophes by threatening my plantings with horticultural gardening blunders is nothing. It is simply and truly not a real disaster.

But I did make a mistake here, and it is the usual, repeated mistake of putting large forest plants into small garden borders and then wondering if they will fit when mature.

Spicebush, or Lindera benzoin is a subtle woodland plant.  Shrubby, delicate in bloom, beautiful in fall color, it grows slowly. It eventually spreads out horizontally in maturity and becomes gracefully architectural.

Jim photographed this one at Cornell Plantations in Ithaca NY on our recent trip there in October.

Now tell me, do you think the spicebush I planted a few years ago at the edge of a raised berm is going to fit when it spreads to its intended size?

And I have three of them in this crowded border, smushed in between ever expanding Colorado spruce trees that will also become huge.  There is simply no room for the beautiful spicebushes to spread out the way they will want to.

There was room, I thought. In 2010, after several years of growing this bed, I was still unhappy that it had open gaps.

And the slow growing little shrubby lindera benzoin plants that I had been nurturing in another garden spot seemed the perfect size for the empty space here, so I filled it up with the three compact spicebush babies.

Now, after seeing a naturally growing mature spicebush in the woods at Cornell, I know mine will grow too big. Once again I have forced large forest plants to grow in cramped garden beds, and no one will be happy about that.

Certainly not a disaster, but . . . oops.

24 comments:

  1. Laurrie, I'm glad you and all family, plants, trees, your garden are safe! I'd seen the CNN news about Sandy, it was terrible!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nadezda, thanks for your concern. We are fine here, but it truly was terrible in other areas. What a disaster.

      Delete
  2. They seem to like to be cozied up to other plants though. Maybe it won't be as bad as you think. They will fill in those places though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa, this is why I love fellow gardeners --- "maybe it won't be as bad as you think" -- yes! That's exactly the sentiment I was looking for, and exactly what I think too :-)

      Delete
  3. Gardening in a small suburban space I can say I'm completely guilty of over crowding my plants. Sometimes you just gotta have a certain plant to satisfy your spirit. It all seems to work out some how. The spicebush adds such gracefulness and fall color. It's easy to see why you'd want one (or three).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cat, it's good to know I have company in my overcrowding tendencies! I guess we all do it, but it can cause such problems later.

      Delete
  4. Seeing the terrible destruction caused by Sandy has certainly put a lot of our problems into perspective. I'm so glad to know you are safe, Laurrie.

    The golden leaves of the spicebush contrast so nicely with your spruces; maybe they'll be cooperative and grow up instead of out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rose, Thanks. I do like the color contrast, but I am going to have to do something to keep them from being overrun by the mass of the spruces so close behind them.

      Delete
  5. Its all to easy to fall into the trap of crowding in plants when the space doesn't allow, it happens to us all. The fellow in the top photo is a big guy but doesn't look like it's seen a pair of pruners to keep it in order. What I have noticed is that they can be limbed up, and made to look like small trees, giving you a ground plain to work with. I know the old adage is 'right plant, right space', but everything will eventually out grow it's location. Be daring and attack it with your pruners. Great Dixters - Christopher Lloyd was famous for doing things 'against the perceived wisdom' just to see what the results would be. Nothing is gained unless we experiment. The worst that could happen is that you'd end up removing the plants, so be creative and sculpt them too the space. A 'opps' maybe, or a 'wow' moment later!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rob, I am intrigued by your thoughts about pruning, and in fact I have been doing exactly that, but tentatively so far. I cut away the spicebush branches growing into the spruces, and I am allowing the plants to grow out on the front side. Maybe I will get graceful arching shrubs that lean out over the lawn, away from the conifers. I'll be more aggressive about doing that each year --- you've encouraged me that I might control the look and spread and get something very differently shaped than the natural spicebush in the woods.

      Oops now, wow later. Love that.

      Delete
    2. After Rob's brilliant comment, anything I could add would be pure shrubbish. Prune away!

      Delete
    3. Tammy, I have a new word to abuse in conversation now -- Shrubbish!!

      Delete
  6. First off, I"m glad you guys are ok out there. Your spicebush is stunning! I am sure you will find them a great new space! I have a tiny lot and rack my brain to try to find species that are not only tolerant of shade but are compact in nature. It is a never ending process!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nicole, thanks for the concern about us. And thanks for admiring my spicebush. It really is hard to find the right size plants for the type of gardening we do on small lots. It's a challenge, and shade adds another wrinkle!

      Delete
  7. For a few years I lusted after a Corylopsis. After buying one, I readjusted my realities and gave it away before planting it.

    Over the course of the winter I will be removing a Corylus 'Red Majestic' that has grown much larger and faster than I expected and has completely outgrown it's spot. Alot of the charm is the twisted branching structure so pruning is difficult to impossible. At this point it's too large to move.

    Instead of mourning the loss though, I'm going to look at it as an opportunity and try to learn from my mistake :).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sue, I like your approach to removing cherished plants that don't fit any more -- an opportunity to learn and plant something new! All good.

      I wanted corylopsis too, and never thought I had a place for a big winterhazel. Then I found Dwarf Corylopsis glabrescens var. gotoana 'March Jewel' at Broken Arrow. Tiny, just two feet by two feet and quite lovely. It's new for me, I'll see how it does, but it looks like a tiny corylopsis, but very low and compact.

      Delete
  8. Laurrie, it's good to know you and yours are OK – and that your mistakes are in perspective. How sobering Sandy is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lee, welcome back to the world of electric power, the internet, and heat. I am relieved to hear you got by with little damage to the home or garden.

      Delete
  9. Laurrie, it is so difficult to wait for plants to grow into their space. We are all impatient gardeners. Thank you, once again, for keeping GOOPs going even when I'm unable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joene, that is exactly why I keep making the same mistake -- I don't want all that empty space while plants slowly grow to fill them, so I plant too much too close together. Ack.

      Delete
  10. I completely forgot about this meme, so glad to see you posted again as I always learn a thing or two. I can certainly sympathize with you regarding this one - you know about the willow. I have the hardest time judging mature size of plants.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marguerite, judging the size of plants is clearly my failing too!

      Delete
  11. No matter how many years we garden, everyone still makes that mistake. Whenever I plant a shrub I set out determined not to do it, but often it still happens. It's a visual thing.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Sensiblegardening, It is a visual thing and it is a failure of imagination -- it is hard for me to imagine how such a cute little round shrub grows into such a different form and size, even when I see pictures of mature specimens. Just can't imagine it in my garden : )

    ReplyDelete

Sorry about requiring code verification -- I experimented with turning it off to make commenting easier, and I got too much spam. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and to type in silly codes. I appreciate hearing from you.