Saturday, August 21, 2010

I have, for years, argued that when siting a plant, it's important to consider its mature size and decide whether it's really a fit

So what you've got to ask yourself is, "how badly do I want that green meatball?"  This Viburnum was pruned less than three months ago. In the interim it's put out three and a half feet of growth. That means we have to shear it every month during the season. I'm basically an advocate of putting plants in positions that they can occupy without this kind of pruning, but when you have an unlimited labor fource it's okay to design this way. Be aware of what you're doing though, and make sure you feel that the return is worth the effort. The problem with saying, "I can prune it" as you put a plant into a site where it really doesn't fit is that the root system grows and grows and grows. Every year you have to prune more and more.
This is an upright Cherry Laurel at the Beltsville Library Garden. It suffered badly in the snows of the past winter and I cut it off at ground level. I planted a Fothergilla to the right, and a Loropetalum to the left, but let the Laurel regrow because the new additions were still small plants. There isn't any scale in the picture, but it has regrown to a little over six feet in one growing season. Hey, it took 15 years to reach twelve feet in height but more than half of that growth has been replaced in less than six months! If you're in it for the long haul, it's important to make sure that when you site a plant, it's not going to outgrow that spot. Pruning works for a few years but since the root system grows unfettered, every year there is more to prune until it becomes downright impractical. Back in the day when labor was cheap and an army of gardeners attended every garden such practices made sense. Not so much anymore.

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