> One of my neighbors loves my gardens, the other doesn't complain about
> them much but does frequently remind me that I am planting things too
> close together. I typically look up a shrub, see how fast it grows
> and how large it will get, how much it can be pruned and whether this
> will damage the look, and then plant as close as possible to
> surrounding plants. I have spireas planted about three feet apart
> that are said to get 5x5 eventually. I like the effect of different
> shrubs and perennials growing together and forming a mass of different
> textures and colors, rather than a plant here and there with tons of
> pine bark, rock, etc around it. I was curious how other gardeners
> feel about this. Do you feel that planting things closely together
> creates an unattractive landscape or the opposite? More importantly,
> am I likely to shorten the lives of some plants by not giving them
> enough breathing room? I tend to plant some things like roses with a
> lot of space between them and small short plants underneath and around
> roses which allows good air flow, but I am wondering about other
I have many "stacked" gardens, trees over shrubs over perennials over
groundcovers, plus trellises & arbors to lift vines over shade-gardens.
Crowded planting takes a little extra planning but is an excellent way to
garden. Plants can be "stacked" if shorter things like shade or taller
things are airy & let light to the lower level. Plants can be planned to
dominate a single area at different times of the year -- arum erupting in
winter after hostas die back is a typical example. Bulbs that need to be
planted six or eight inches down can be at a leavel underneath earlier
blooming bulbs that need to be two or three inches down, then a thinly
rooted creeping groundcover or dwarf herb can take over the same spot
later in spring. "Tippy" bulbs can be planted in the same spot as some
companion plant that holds the bulbs up (weak-stemmed tulips popping up
through some herb for example). Crocuses under a large deciduous magnolia
own a sunny spot in late winter & early spring, then as the crocuses
slowly die away & the magnolia becomes very leafy, a shade-loving
bleedingheart erupts & becomes gigantic in that same location.
Elsewhere under deciduous shrubs, early-blooming narcissi are very flowery
for a while, & by the time it's too shady for them, monkshoods &
crane's-bill geraniums are bushing out in pretty much the same spots.
Container gardening techniques & Japanese miniature gardening can be
adapted to finite areas of the open yard.
Plants that have deep taproops or otherwise resent being moved if crowded
by plants that transplant easily, then if over time they seem TOO crowded,
the transplantable items can be moved or divided back to a smaller size.
Plants prone to powdery mildew have to be left out of crowded
arrangements. Semi-evergreens in crowded gardens need to be trimmed back
more religiously in late winter or early spring to make room for all the
new growth. If mistakes are made -- some plant smothering nearby
companions -- will need rearranging or more radical sheerings than would
otherwise be necessary.
With poor planning somethings could get smothered, but it's usually never
too late to shift things if necessary. I erred last year in thinking an
aggressive groundcover campanula couldn't possibly overwhelm slightly more
delicate but vastly taller, but I was wrong, & had to move the campanula
at the start of spring to save the pulsatillas. But of five perennials
crowded in that area, all the others are compatible & happy as can be.
-paghat the ra***
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
-from Peter Newell's "Wild Flowers"
See the Garden of Paghat the Ra***: http://www.moonsgarden.com/