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4 Risks of Planting Before Planning

April 05, 2017

Just admit it, your yard and garden looks terrible. Rather than a well-manicured garden, it closely resembles a dying jungle filled with plants you can’t name. Before blaming it on poor soil conditions, the plant’s unquenchable thirst for water, or that you simply don’t have a ‘Green Thumb’, consider that you may have planted before planning? What do I mean by planting before planning?

Did you measure your garden/open space before purchasing the plants?
Do you know how much sun your garden receives during the day?
Did you make sure the plant is suitable for your USDA Hardiness Zone?
Do you know the size, bloom time, and characteristics of the plants purchased?
Do you have a vision or scheme for the garden?

If you answered ‘No’ to any of these questions, you probably haven’t done enough planning for your residential landscape. I’d wager that on the way out of the hardware store, you saw a few nice-looking plants so you bought them and plopped them in the ground. Sound familiar? If so, here are four potential risks for your garden.

1. The plants Don't Fit

You planted a row of shrubs beneath a bedroom window that is four feet off the ground. After a few years though, the shrubs start to encroach the view of the window and it’s apparent the shrubs are going to be way too big for the space. Most plants have multiple varieties and not all of them are the same size. Lilacs can be as large as 12 feet tall like the Beauty of Moscow Lilac, or as small as four feet like the Dwarf Korean Lilac. It is important to know the size of the specific plant and the space available that it will be planted in. If done incorrectly, you will end up spending lots of time moving plants to make room for others.

 Garden Design Tips

2. The Bloom Time Is Wrong

You saw a great looking shrub in full bloom at the plant nursery and thought it would look perfect next to the front steps. The only problem is you were expecting a flowering shrub for late Summer and Fall, not Spring. A plant purchased in July, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will naturally bloom in July once it’s placed in the ground. A perfect example of this is Forsythia. It has a bright yellow flower in early spring and it looks wonderful, but for the rest of the year you are left with a scraggly shrub whose color is forgettable. No bloom time or seasonal interest is wrong, but knowing when that seasonal interest occurs is important.

 Landscape Planting

3. Everything Dies

The plants go in the ground and look great. A month goes by and you notice them wilting so you water them more. Six months later, they are dead. Many plants die for reasons other than dryness. Too much water can rot out a plant, poor soil conditions can slowly starve a plant, too much or too little sun can kill a plant, and a harsh winter can destroy a plant. For example, a PJM Rhododendron requires partial shade, good drainage, acidic soil and wind protection. It is susceptible to roots rotting, scorching in full sun, and burning out during winter because it doesn’t drop its leaves. If a PJM Rhododendron gets planted in a location with heavy clay soil, full sun, and is open to the elements, it’s roots will rot, the leaves will burn, and will dry out during winter. Assuming all plants will work in your yard is a recipe for disaster. Takes notes of the conditions of your garden and get a professional opinion on the plant selection.

 Garden Design Tips

4. Looks Like a Mess

In a 10’x10’ area, you have an existing shrub, three transplanted Hosta, two perennials gifted from your Mother-in-Law, five plants you picked up at the hardware store, and a mystery grass that keeps spreading and spreading. Needless to say, it doesn’t look good. A garden that is thrown together like this usually lacks definition, size hierarchy, and coordinating colors. Doing a little bit of research, putting together a quick sketch, and placing the plants before planting can go a long way.

 Messy GardenResidential Landscape

Gardening and working in the yard can be lots of fun, but also incredibly unrewarding when the final product fails to meet expectations. A proper landscape design will help avoid the many headaches of overgrown plants, dying plants, and just plain ugly plants. DIY residential design isn’t for everyone however. Utilizing the expertise of a professional landscape company to do the planning and planting for you is worth the cost. Your garden will be the proof.