A Couple of Lessons That Took a Long Time to Learn But Now Seem Kind of Obvious
Beth over at Plant Postings hosts a meme called Lessons Learned, which is about pretty much what it sounds like. This is a good thing, as it’s extremely useful to compare notes with fellow gardeners. So I’m taking this opportunity to write about a couple of lessons I learned over the summer.
Lesson Number 1: When you have a grouping of containers, every container should not be planted with the same mix of plants. Sounds obvious, right? But that didn’t stop me from using the thriller/filler/spiller formula with each and every one of the containers on my front landing. I’m such a slave to convention!
The result is that eventually a lot of the lower-growing fillers and spillers got obscured or shaded out, and the whole grouping ended up looking a overgrown and shaggy by late summer.
If I had it to do over again, I would plant the thrillers – Cigar Plant (Cuphea ignea) and Mexican Petunia (Ruellia brittoniana) – only in a couple of the containers at or near the top of the landing, instead of in all of them. The remaining could have been planted only with the filler Star Flower (Pentas lanceolata) and the spiller Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus), or other low to mid-height plants. The idea is to think about the picture created by all the containers as a whole.
Really what I want is to have my container groupings look like this.
Lesson Number Two: When planning a bed or border, it’s critical that you factor into your design whether or not a plant is a late riser.
Case in point: the Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in my Driveway Border. In theory, it’s planted in a spot where at its full height it should get adequate sun. However, it is surrounded by perennials that have already gotten fairly tall by the time the Switchgrass breaks dormancy in May.
As a result, it is gets shaded and remains fairly stunted. This fall I’m moving it to a better spot on the Left Bank.
There was a similar situation with the ‘Heavenly Blue’ Morning Glories (Ipomoea tricolor). Their seeds can’t be planted until the soil warms in late May. I planted it by the Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis), which is starting to bloom by then. The Morning Glory seedlings hate to be shaded, and I had to remove some of the stems of the Wild -Indigo – something I hated to do.
Have you ever found yourself ignoring the obvious in your garden?