I thought I would comment on the importance of the size of plants you choose for your landscape project. It is a two part post, with the first regarding the size of the plant when you plant it and the second, the eventual size when it is full grown. Since we live in an age where instant gratification is the norm, it isn’t unusual for customers to want their plants big. I mean, “the bigger the better”, right? Well not really! In 1971 I turned my love of plants into a professional career that has continued my whole life. That first incarnation was “Sunshine Gardening”, at a time when the people who maintained your landscape where referred to as “Gardeners”. It was a highly regarded profession at that time, with the top honors being held by the much sought after “Japanese Gardeners”. Now like many professions it has deteriorated to the point where anybody with a truck and a mower can do the job. What a pity! I wonder if there even are “Japanese Gardeners” anymore. Anyway, at that time I went to San Diego Evening College to learn about the trade. I was lucky enough to have a couple of great instructors that were actually established Landscape Contractors. In the subject of plant size I remember one instructor showing the class a chart that clearly demonstrated that a seedling planted at the same time as a five gallon tree would past the larger size by in three years. His observation was simple, “it is always best to plant a small plant in a big hole” ! In 1978 I started a nursery growing “liners”, which are basically what I ship to my customers now. They were and are today what growers plant into a one gallon container, usually reaching a salable size plant in 3-4 months. Early on I had a lady who was landscaping a large steep hillside at her home. The cost and sheer size of the task made using large plants impossible for her. I sold her hundreds of liners of Cistus, Arctostaphylos and Baccharis. That hillside was covered in a year! Fairly easy to do and at a fraction of the cost. After that I completed numerous commercial projects with “liners” and now I sell them to homeowners all over the country with great feedback on their growth. “The smaller the better”? I believe so!
The most important factor with regards to plant size is it’s eventual size when full grown. I have always been amazed at the lack of attention paid to this by homeowners and professionals alike. It is easy to find examples everywhere. It is the 20 foot tall tree with the trunk rubbing on the eave of the house, with roots lifting the foundation or the Berberis encroaching on the sidewalk and snagging you with thorns as you walk past, and there are the poor plants that are mutilated by the landscape crew monthly trying to keep them in a space that is too small. It is simple, pick your plants to fit in the space when they are full grown. Just because a plant is the right size when you buy it doesn’t mean it will stay that way. In other words, don’t impulse buy your landscape choices, do a little research, make a “landscape plan”. I have searched out and try to offer plant varieties that will stay “tight” without a lot of pruning and fit well into most landscape situations. Try groupings of plants, staggered instead of in straight lines. Maybe a grouping of background plants that grow taller with lower growing plants grouped in front and filled in with “groundcovers” like Arctostaphylos, Dianthus, Mahonia Repens and Potentilla “Medicine Wheel Mountain”. With a little thought you can have a landscape environment that will give you years of beauty and enjoyment. And remember, I am always happy to discuss your project and offer any advice that I can, by email or phone. Gary