Meagan Provencher, Sr. Landscape Designer, ICNPro
I see any number of plant and landscape issues every day. Drainage problems. Rabbits or deer damage. Winter burn. Pruning nightmares. Neighbor’s “stuff”. Too much shade. Too much sun. Dead grass. Grass in groundcover beds. The list of landscape woes goes on and on. But the biggest issue I see is plants located in the wrong spots and then struggling, dying, or butchered by poor pruning.
I am a firm believe in RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT SPOT. So many landscape issues are caused by plants in the wrong spot. I get it. That cute little River Birch you grabbed on sale at the end of the year needed to be planted. And the only open space you had was 3’ from the corner of your patio. Flash forward just a few years (often less than 10) and that cute little River Birch is now 25’ tall and wide and its root system has made itself at home under your paver patio’s gravel base. Now you have to cut it down and you are angry at the plant when he was just doing what came natural to him. A little more thought before the birch was planted and instead, you could have a beautiful Tree Lilac that behaves itself and will cast shade and flower but stay less than 20’ full grown.
We want plants to do jobs for us. But like any human doing a job, the plant wants to do his job and do it correctly the first time with as little human interference as possible. I always tell folks to figure out what size they want the plant to be full grown. Do you have room for a 20’ tree? Or only room for a larger shrub like a Viburnum that will bloom and grow with little maintenance and stay under 10’? At least once a week someone tells me “But I won’t be here that long”….I get that too. You may not live in your house forever. Or you may stay longer than you expect. Do you want the cost of removal down the road? Think in advance of what you are planting and you’ll be rewarded with many years of hands-off maintenance. Plants take care of themselves if they are happy in their spots. You shouldn’t force a plant to do something it doesn’t want to do. If something wants to get to be 6-8’ tall (such as a Dwarf Burning Bush), having to trim it ten times a year to keep it 3’ tall isn’t doing anyone any favors. You are damaging the plant’s longevity as well as wasting your summer trimming every weekend. Instead, choose a dwarf Weigela or a small shrub rose. They will max out at 3’x3’ untrimmed! See? No maintenance and lots of color.
Making smart plant choices is the easiest way to create a “No to Low” maintenance garden. There is a plant for every single situation you can think of. We are lucky to have so many plants in Illinois working for us! If you need help choosing the right plant for your spot, never hesitate to ask a plant person. I know that I love to see plants untouched in the landscape and my clients are happy because they don’t have to do anything to it!
Meagan is the Senior Landscape Designer for Wasco Nursery & Garden Center in St. Charles. She can be reached at 630-584-4424 or firstname.lastname@example.org