Friday, April 6, 2012

Maybe I shouldn't have put that there

Is it just me - or is it every gardener that makes the same mistake of inappropriate planting?

Gardening is a four dimensional art.  Other art forms merely have to worry about two or three dimensions.  We have to worry about four.  Length, breadth, height - and time.  Plants - assuming we're successful in our endeavours - have this nasty habit of growing.  Sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly.  But, unless our thumbs are brown rather than green, grow they do.  I've seen it described as slow sculpture.  Could there be a better description?

I've just spent an hour (I'm old, it takes time!) digging out an inappropriately sited golden variegated bamboo from its site on the south side of my little garden pond.  It was too big for the site.  Fifteen years ago, when I planted a small offset donated from my father's garden, it wasn't.  But, gradually, over the years, it's slowly increased in size and was now beginning to overshadow the pond with it's 6 ft / 180cm height and ever increasing girth.  I've known that I had a problem for a year or three - but have done nothing about it.  Today I bit the bullet and removed the beast.

Pleioblastus auricomus - moved, not discarded

Don't worry too much.  This is not a tale of devastation.  I've moved a small chunk to a new location in the garden and will distribute other bits to friends and family.  But it got me thinking about my other plantings that may not have taken full account of that fourth dimension of gardening.

For example, should I really have planted Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata' quite as close to my sitting area as I did?  It's beautiful and, as a younger plant, was well within bounds.  It then grew and now the sharp spines dig into anyone sitting too close. Unwelcome vistors are shown to that seat.

And maybe I shouldn't have placed Mahonia japonica quite that close to my front entrance path.  Yes, it's a little prickly, but surely the occasional visitor laceration is compensated for by the gorgeous winter scent.

I could go on with tales of a Dicksonia antarctica tree fern that I never expected to grow as fast and now needs to be moved 3 feet / 1 metre backwards to enable access to the greenhouse; the Canary Island date palm that was threatening to block my living room window before a severe winter interrupted (terminally) its growth; a Camellia 'St Ewe' and Acer 'Bloodgood' combination that I've had to butcher to get access to my front door.  There are many other examples.

Faced with bare earth it's far too easy to plant closely to fill the gaps.  The years slip by and suddenly that spindly little purchase that looked so lost when first added to the garden has achieved impressive maturity.  And it's in the wrong place.  Aargh, time to get out the spade.


  1. Definitely not just you, virtually every gardener does :) Work never finishes and there's always something new to learn in such a multi dimensional preoccupation. And don't forget pleasant surprises, accidental planting that ends up working so well in their spot!

  2. Great post and it has happened to me several times.