I must admit, that I have been looking forward to this topic and have been pouring over past photos of my landscape consults. I didn’t realize how many photos that I had accrued over the years of boring gardens so it has taken me a while to put this post together.
My last post asked the question, “Does Your Garden Have the Blahs?” Is it boring, overgrown, sparse, or just lacks interest? Well, don’t worry; we will go over some simple steps that you can do to chase the ‘blahs’ away.
Part 1 has to do with deciding what to take out of the garden and what to keep. Your homework assignment was to take a picture of your garden and then print it out. Now, get out your red pen and get ready…..
Now at first glance, you may be wondering what is wrong with this front garden. Well, the homeowners felt their garden was boring and lacked color. This garden had some attractive plants, but some were too large for their allotted space and had to be pruned continuously. Other shrubs were not placed correctly and blocked the view of those behind them.
So, I got out my red pen and got started…..
Shrubs that blocked the view into the garden and were too large for their allotted space and so were circled in red and removed. Those circled in blue were pruned back.
Shortly afterward, you can see the difference removing a few plants and some pruning makes. The client also added some new plants (not blooming in this picture) that would provide color in the winter when they were in residence.
Here is an example of a gardener who got a little carried away……
This garden is not what I would call ‘blah’, but the homeowner tried to fit all of her favorite plants into a very small area. All they succeeded in doing was to create a messy planting area, which is not pleasing to the eye.
I counted at least 6 shrubs in this small area. Because they were so crowded, they had been pruned often to keep them from overtaking each other and removing many of the flowers in the process. By removing 3 of the plants, the rest would have room to grow into their natural shapes and provide a beautiful focal point to this garden.
This front garden has a grove of beautiful trees. However, there are four trees crowded into too small a space. Each individual tree had to be pruned to keep them from running into each other and therefore, you could not enjoy their full size and beauty.
By removing the circled trees the two remaining trees would be better appreciated since they could then reach their full potential.
This entry area was well designed and only suffered from some old perennials (Angelita Daisies). Many flowering perennials are short-lived and need to be replaced every few years. They are relatively inexpensive and add so much interest to the garden.
Unfortunately, many gardeners make the mistake of not replacing their plants and as a result, their garden becomes more and more bare with each passing year, like the one below…..
If your garden looks like this one, you probably do not need to remove anything, since there is hardly anything left. You can see a drip irrigation line sticking up by the boulder where there used to be a plant. This is a perfect example of a garden where short-lived plants were removed and never replaced.
Sometimes, the wrong plant is planted the wrong place…..
These are Ficus trees that were planted in a raised planter around a pool. When they were initially planted, they were small and fit well into this limited space, but no longer.
This Red Bird-of-Paradise shrubs naturally grows more then 4 – 5 ft. wide and should be removed from this area.
Gold Lantana is beautiful and is usually covered with yellow flowers, but not his one. It has been pruned, using hedge trimmers, to keep it from encroaching on the water meter, but it had never been severely pruned, which if done each spring, would eliminate this problem.
There are two different solutions – the first is to simply prune the Lantana back severely to about 1′ and let it grow out until it is approximately 3′ x 3′. The other solution is simply to remove it and plant a replacement further away from the water meter.
Many situations simply require occasional severe pruning, which can rejuvenate plants, reduce maintenance and greatly improve their appearance. So if any of these pictures remind you of your garden – a severe pruning, may be all you need to do.
Severely pruning this Chihuahuan Sage (Leucophyllum laevigatum), will remove the dead interior growth which will be replaced with new, attractive growth that will flower. By pruning back to approximately 2′ x 2′, you will have an ugly bunch of sticks for a few weeks, but in most cases, they will begin to leaf out again. **This is best done in the spring time. Some plants will not recover from this type of pruning, which indicates that they were declining and would not have survived for long even without being pruned.
In some cases, when there is little green growth (above), it is best to just remove the plants and start over. But, you can always try to cut them back severely to about 2′ in size and see if they come back…..you don’t have anything to lose, so try it and you may be surprised when it comes back.
There is nothing that needs to be removed in this garden. But a good pruning would improve the appearance. All three shrubs should be pruned severely every 2 – 3 years in spring and then allowed to grow into their natural shape. The Cat’s Claw Vine, (I don’t recommend planting this vine), should also be pruned down to the ground every few years to remove old, woody growth and keep it in check.
Again, I would not remove anything from this garden, but it does need improvement. It looks like a bunch of round blobs dotted haphazardly around the landscape. At first you may fault a bad design, but if you take a second look, it is more a problem of incorrect pruning. Each type of shrub in this landscape grows to varying heights and shapes, when not pruned into round ball shapes. By decreasing the amount of pruning and banishing the hedge trimmers, the shrubs would grow into their natural shapes would greatly improve the appearance of this landscape. A little texture would be welcome in the shape of large boulders, accent plants and some mounding perhaps.
**You can read more about recommended pruning for shrubs in an earlier post, “Shrubs Aren’t Made To Be Cupcakes, Frisbees or Pill Boxes.
As you can see, we covered a lot of different boring gardens. I hope the examples that I have shown help you as you evaluate your own garden and use your red pen.
I will start working on Part 2, which will cover more of the design aspect – specifically, where to place plants in the landscape.
On personal note, life is crazy and busy, but there are two things that I would like to share with you.
First, my nephew (Little Farmer of Double S Farms), swallowed a penny earlier this week and then complained of pain. It turns out it got lodged in his esophagus and he had to go the children’s hospital where they put him to sleep so they could use a scope to get it out.
He did great 🙂
The second thing that I would like to share is that in exactly 1 week, my brother and sister-in-law will give birth to their twin boys. I can hardly wait!