New landscaping beds come with lessons to be learned. Or relearned…because some things I should already know.
Here’s where we started back in mid-March:
Here we were after adding edging in April:
And here we are in late May:
So what lessons can we learn from all this?
- Delayed gratification. Landscaping is not completed in 30 minutes, no matter what impression you may have gathered from watching a gardening show. In fact, most landscaping projects won’t be completed in a day or even in a long weekend of planting. Learn to accept that landscaping projects take time – weeks, months, even years – to reach their full potential. While these areas are starting to settle in and look like they belong, it will be several more seasons before the plants grow to fill in their space.
- Amend, amend, amend. Can I get an amen? Our soil is clay, which is just as difficult as too-sandy soil. If you were blessed with naturally loamy soil, be grateful and don’t gloat. Regardless of your soil type, it needs a diet of healthy food and fiber to stay in peak condition. Yes, fiber: mulch, manure, compost, pine fines, etc.. They nourish your soil, but they are organic and will decay over time. Humans and animals don’t eat just once and then never again, do we? Your soil needs to eat, too. Feed your soil and your soil will feed your plants.
- In matters of transplants, size matters. Sometimes smaller IS better. Smaller shrubs are younger and therefore cheaper. But beyond the dollars and cents, smaller perennials are generally more adaptable to new surroundings. With a little encouragement, they will settle in and grow better than older plants who may resent being moved. Spend the money you saved on amendments. See point #2 – you can never have too much soil amendment material.
- They look out of scale! Yes, those smaller shrubs may look out of scale when you plant them. But unlike buying a too-small bedside table or too-tight shirt (both of which will always look and/or feel wrong), the plants will eventually fit the space. Refer back to point #1. If you need instant gratification, buy new cushions for your outdoor chairs.
- Plants need personal space. It’s tempting to cram plants in right to compensate for their current size, but consider what they will need when they reach maturity. The ‘Sky Pencil’ hollies will only get 18-24 inches in diameter, so we placed about a foot from the wall. The ‘Compacta’ hollies and azaleas will mound to about 3-4 feet in diameter, so we left ample room around them to accommodate their eventual size.
- Use fill-ins as needed. To keep the planting scheme from looking sparse, I tucked hostas in between the shrubs. They are shade-lovers and quick to forgive if I want or need to relocate them in a few years. I’ll also add caladiums and impatiens for summer color, then plant tulips in the fall for spring color. Over time, the shrubs should fill in and each season I can evaluate how much – if any annual “filler” plants are needed and relocate any hostas that are no longer needed.