Overplanted and unaware...

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We drove by this overplanted bed and went on discussing it for many miles. When we see close planting of trees and shrubs destined to be big, we can only hope that it's done intentionally and with a plan to stay ahead of the overgrowth. We debated several such options for this bed. 

...or overplanted by design?

On the road, we often entertain ourselves by looking at landscapes. We admire nifty plants, pick out problem symptoms, comment on pruning, and sometimes debate the relative merits of one or another design.

Here's a bed in a landscape we debated recently. Our discussion ranged across four perspectives:


Unintentional overplanting

By our standards, this bed is overplanted.

Here is a diagram of what's in the bed now and each plant's potential size. For five years from now, check the bottom of this page.



So, one of us offered no objections to the other's first statement, "Well, that's going to be a jungle." Not so, the statement's continuation, "and the designer ought to be shot."

"Hey, maybe the designer's a novice with no idea how big all those plants are going to get."

Right: The Japanese maple's going to get THAT big?! For help predicting a plant's eventual size and how quickly it will reach that, see Predict Size.
Below, left: Dwarf lilac (
Syringa meyeri), as planted about 30" tall...                                    
Below, right: ...and as they may be  5 years later.

 BurngBush0986s.jpg dwarfLilacTS4Sm181.jpg

Below, left: Gold Mop falsecypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Gold Mop') as planted, about 12" tall...
Below, right: ...and as they may be five years later.

ChamaeMops0987s.jpg Chamae5YrsSun1233s.jpg

Below, left: New gardeners who don't recognize this young cutie as a standard spruce are in for surprise. After about 5 years a sheared evergreen completes its ungainly transition to normal habit, and along the way it really takes off, size-wise.
Below, right: We don't consider the herbaceous perennials, such as this ornamental grass, to be major players in this bed. The grass and daylilies will most likely be squeezed out or shaded into insignificance by the tree and shrubs.

Spruce0985s.jpg Grass0988s.jpg

"Well, maybe the designer didn't know. Or maybe eventual size didn't matter. The goal might've been an immediately full look. Maybe they're selling the house."

"So they're going to stick the next owner with a jungle!"

"Maybe. Or maybe they're planning to use some of the plants as they grow, move them out to other places. Maybe they got a good deal, 3 for the price of one. So maybe it could be thinned out as things grow. Or pruned."

"Humph. Tell me how you'd do that."

We did, ending with two workable futures for the bed and one certainty -- that there's no way to simply let this group of plants mature together.

If you're someone who's just discovered an overplanting you never ordered, you, too, may be able to save it by looking at our two possible futures for this bed.

More about why overplanting happens and how to avoid it in What's Up 156.

A stake in another issue



One last issue came up, not design related but something that could ruin this design by killing its main player. That is, the Japanese maple has been staked. The tree must be un-staked, and soon.



Below: The bare spots and loss of gold color we mention in the diagram above. Typical of crowded, shaded threadleaf falsecypress.