Saturday, March 1, 2008

Your Miranda Rights are on the Label

The professor in me is always looking for “teachable moments.” I ran into the images below in my slide collection. Here’s something for Green Thumb Sunday that should strike a chord with many gardeners. Raise your hand if there’s a little of you in this parable.

It’s Saturday morning, you’ve just handed a bit to much money to the barista for a foaming espresso drink, and on the way home you stop at your favorite nursery. Retailers being who they are, put the best looking, most colorful plants right at the entrance and the next thing you know, out comes your Visa card and that new plant is on its way home.

With no time to read that little plastic label in the pot, and certainly not enough time to look the plant up in a reliable reference book, it’s off the shed for a shovel. Your design process consists of “where should I put this?” and the last remaining open space in the garden becomes the place of rest for that spiffy newcomer.

I tell my classes that if there’s only one thing they learn from 18 hours in my classroom, it’s (everyone say it with me in a confident tone), “Right Plant – Right Place.” That means that you understand the preprogrammed genetic baggage that comes with every plant, and try to find the best place for that plant to thrive with as little life support and coercion from pruning shears that you can achieve. No wishful thinking, or “Oh, I’ll just trim it.” You’ve got better things to do with your time.

Here’s how I watched this scenario unfold in Santa Barbara a few years ago. The gray plant pictured below is Santolina chamaecyparissus (this is easier to pronounce - Cotton Lavender).

It gets about 3 feet across, and I’d guess there are four in this bed. Each plant gets about 18” tall and 36” across. These were spaced perfectly and create a beautiful, natural mounding form. Left at least 18” from the edge of the planter, they’ve grown to their mature size without ever needing pruning.

Here’s the same plant in another situation.

Some numb-nut decided to space them eight inches apart and start the first row about 2 inches from the sidewalk. Anyone see what’s coming?

Yep – it’s pruning time, and don’t these babies just look lovely?

But here’s the icing on the cake (and realize that the owner of this property was actually paying the gardener to do this).

Each plant, pruned individually into a rounded cylinder. Can you imagine the labor? Can you smell the fumes from the gas-powered hedge trimmer? The only thing I can imagine is that it was intended to be a topiary tribute to Marge Simpson’s hair.

Read the label – you’ve been Mirandized!


GardenJoy4Me said...

Brilliant post ! You made me *SMILE* this morning while having to see my sworn enemy SMOW up to the eyeballs out in my garden ..
Marge is a great "poster girl" for READ THE grigging label people ! LOL

Ross Nevette said...

Another similar situation I deal with regularly is palm trees planted too close to walls - they look great while they're small, but they are going to get huge and they will break the wall. Right plant - right place. I'll have to remember to use that next time...

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Okay, that was funny and so true.~~Dee

No Rain said...

I see this all the time here--espeially in the medians. The city will plant Octopus Agave, which gets huge, and the the landscapre crew comes through and trims off half the leaves that encroach into the road. Then, to add insult to injury, they prune off the botoom leaves to make the plant look like a pineapple. Same thing with Desert Spoon. Property owners also plant trees in oddest places in new landscapes, like one foot from the house foundation, on the edge of the lawn, or two trees one foot apart. Live for today!!
Happy GTS,

thepowerguides said...

that is just to funny , it never ceases to amaze me why people shape plants and trees into the form they want not what nature intended

Steve From
The Power Gardeners Guide

Leslie said...

The chopped off plants were bad enough but the hairdo plants made me laugh...great visual to illustrate your point!

WiseAcre said...

Those look like prime examples of the 'mow and blow' design experts. I can't imagine a real gardener making mistakes so glaringly bad. It's one thing to buy now - worry later. But those were not the case of someone unable to resist a plant they saw at a garden shop.

Glazier said...

I was looking for a So. CA gardening blog and think I've found it. This type of info. is very helpful. Thanks.

Deb said...

This is a good reminder why I never plant anything that has the word "creeper" in its name lol

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Oh, that almost hurt to see these beautiful plants shaped into an unnatural shape.

Annie in Austin said...

You make good observations, Billy! This kind of pruning is done here to dwarf nandinas - mainly in municipal and commercial installations rather than in home gardens. It's bizarre to see that feathery foliage no longer in motion but with leafless twig ends poking out all over.
Sometimes they look like Marge's hair, and sometimes they are cut into cubes!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

kate said...

Great post! I learned the hard way not to make impulsive nursery choices ... a few disasters was all it took.

Those poor cotton lavender bushes look as if they'll topple with a bit of a breeze. We have the same sort of things happening here, but with different plant material.

I wonder how come I can never get my 'do to look like Marge's.

Colin & Carol said...

The vogue for garden makeover and instant effect is apparent in many of those type of mistaken planting schemes. Though there is nothing wrong with growing on and transplanting having had the benefit of grouping plants together.

Trees that still have a natural form after pruning make more striking plants in general but there are suitable plants for more formal shapes.

Ewa said...

I like santolina a lot and it grows in my garden. I need to transplant it, co they are too close and too close to sidewalk.
Thank you for this post :)
Thank you.