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All-Too-Common Gardening Mistakes

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Landscaping, gardening, whatever you want to call it- it’s pretty forgiving. I’m of the school of thought that you can’t actually have flowers that clash with one another, and if you don’t have a perfect blend of textural variations in a mass planting, it probably still looks ok. But the one that will get you is “Right plant, wrong place.”dscf0017

Here’s a picture I took today. Those are crape myrtles right against the foundation- including one growing INTO the electric meter! Honestly, if that one was planted from a 15 gallon pot, the root ball must have been almost touching the foundation then. These trees are goners. The homeowner had no choice but to remove the trunks that were rubbing against the house. At this point, they no longer have that gorgeous crape myrtle form, and they’ll always be in the way. This is a new client, but if I have my way- they’re gone. I doubt I’ll get any argument.


That’s right, these were Leyland Cypresses, used as foundation plants. They continue on the other side of the steps, where the plant bed is less than four feet wide. Last year, I had Leyland Cypresses taken down in Reston, each over fifteen feet wide and fifty feet tall. I despise these garbage trees to begin with, so I felt no pain having these ripped out!

dscf0016If you squint, perhaps you’ll see that there’s a basement window back there. I would think that part of the appeal of a raised ranch is that you get tons of light on all levels of the home. Unfortunately, plant choice has eliminated that possibility here.

so1blueridgeThere’s a nice-sized older home back there… somewhere. I’ll bet that the Nellie R. Stevens Holly dwarfing the front entry was cute and innocent looking when it was planted.

So what’s my point? The biggest, and yet most easily preventable gardening mistake we can make, is to make no attempt to understand the mature size of the plants we select. The tag that you find on a plant at the nursery is a good starting point… sometimes. It’s important to remember, however, that many of the tags are put on by the grower, not the retailer. So, talk to the folks at the nursery and see if their experience matches what the tag says. Also, if you’re reading this, you have internet access- and volumes of botanical info at your fingertips. Simply typing the name of the plant into google gives you hundreds of sites. I usually start with the .edu sites nearest to me first, and work from there. 

Books are always awesome. If you ever want to show your appreciation for my slaving over this blog, I’m fine with paperbacks. Just sayin’. Seriously though, Michael Dirr is THE guru of shrubs. Any book by him will become an invaluable part of your library. And lastly, may I recommend talking to your local designer and/or garden coach? After all, we’re in the business of taking the stress and the guesswork out of your landscape endeavours!

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