"Good as new is easy
Good as old takes talent."
- Edson Construction Co. advertisement in 1988 "Old House Journal"
Although this advertisement is talking about remodeling homes, it applies quite well to gardens.
Seldom do we exclaim over a new garden. We save our "ooh" and "ahhh" for established yards. We want to copy yards and gardens that have character - the kind you can only get from years of growing, loving and attention.
What this little quote refers to is making something new look, feel and behave as if it was done perfectly years and years ago. Putting a row of little shrubs around the foundation of a new home is easy. Putting a foundation planting together that resembles an established home is much more difficult. And, it takes talent.
A few of the talents needed is know yourself, vision, define your style, horticultural knowledge, a good diagrammed plan, a budget and buying the right plant for today and tomorrow. It's not necessarily hiring a professional (although that is one way to help) and it's not necessarily spending huge quantities of money (although that's an option, too.)
- Know yourself: What level of self involvement will you want?
- Vision: How do you want your planting to look today and at maturity?
- Style: Do you want a particular style and will it match your home's architecture?
- Horticultural Knowledge: Do you know enough to do this project and will you be able to continue?
- Plan: Having a diagram on paper/computer will help you visualize and keep the plan on track.
- Budget: Knowing what you can spend prior to starting keeps your plan viable and is a must for both you and if you hire help.
- Right plant: Make sure your plan will transition into the future years and not outgrow it's beauty and function.
I think we've all seen a new house with the little puff ball shrubs dotting the foundation every two feet or the twenty year old ranch home with bushes covering the windows. Both examples show lack of the above steps. Too bad since a planting gone bad typically costs as much in labor and material as a good planting.
Probably the last comment: If you have made a mistake, take it out. This is my personal difficult rule. I have feelings akin to disowning a child.
I've made my share of mistakes when planting. The hybrid Eastern White Pine Pinus strobus "fastigiated" that was to get a maximum of 15 foot wide and 50 foot tall. It sounded like the perfect tree between my four eastern facing windows - a blank spot on the house visible to the road. The thing is HUGE and starting to cover the bottom windows. It's just too beautiful a tree to remove and is said to live up to 400 years. I just can't kill it and it's way too big to move.
I've been fooled by "dwarf" varieties, "slow growers" and "maximum growth stats" several times. Some have been successfully moved, some have stayed and are awkward and some have left us. I try to rationalize:
Successfully moved: The HUGE H U G E forsythia bush by the front picture window was moved (thank you husband) and we were able to divide it into at least fifteen bushes now located away from windows. It seemed like a beautiful yellow addition to that area, where we could enjoy the flowers and birds and insects who frequented. Alas, it blocked all other views.
Stayed: The above mentioned White Pine.
Left us: Raspberry bushes as foundation plants. This was a method of keeping "peeping Toms and intruders" away from windows in Victorian times. I thought, "How perfect for my old Victorian home!" Not so perfect for the guys who were painting the house.