The Foliage Forecast – A Tale about Transition and the Size of Things to Come

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A tapestry of small-scale plants right next to the sidewalk! Leucothoe ‘Rainbow’, ‘Rheingold’ Arborvitae, Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’, Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’, Nandina ‘Gulf Stream’, ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’ False Cypress, Spirea ‘Double Play Gold’, ‘Tri-Color’ Sage, Senecio cineraria ‘Cirrus’, Dwarf Hemlock.

The downsizing of America‘s landscape is upon us. Just like our homes, cars and some of our lifestyles, we are now learning to garden more efficiently in less space without sacrificing style.

The vast majority of us don’t have giant-sized lots in our neighborhoods as our grandparents and parents might have, depending on where you live of course. 2 acre lots are considered luxurious, 5 acres are GIANT. But, most of us these days have 1 acre, 1/2 or a 1/3 acre. More and more newer planned communities like mine are even less than a quarter acre or what we call a zero lot line.

When our home lots of yesteryear were young and new, there wasn’t nearly the plethora of plants to choose from and not many resources for good gardening information the way we all depend on now. There was no one to teach us “Right Plant, Right Place“. We all piled into the station wagon, went to the nearest nursery and chose from the small selection of Junipers and Rhododendrons or whatever your local everyday average plant choice might have been long ago.

As the years went by those basic, bread and butter plants were great- they did their job. Dad would routinely hack them back every year whether they needed it or not as an act of domination over the family’s land. After all, aren’t we SUPPOSED to have a hedgerow on our All-American Homestead? Isn’t the home supposed to be snuggled with shrubs up against the house and a “Leave it to Beaver” lawn all the way to the street?

But, then while everyone was busy, those plants grew and grew and grew. Dad could only hack them back so far now. Mom can’t get around the Laurel to get to the front door. Guests have to dodge the thorny, poky plants on the walkway, the juniper on the driveway harbors a spider colony that could rival a horror movie.

Don’t we all have that story of the weekend warrior, gardening bender where someone decided that (insert ubiquitous over grown, badly placed plant here) it was high time to take that plant out? “I can’t stand it for not one more minute! Chop it down. Tear it out. Prune it into submission. Tie it to the bumper of your truck and pull that sucker out!”

Then suddenly its gone. As if by magic, the sun has broken through and now you have that SPACE. The family piles into the mini-van and heads to the local independently owned garden center and asks the smart horticulturist/salesperson for advice.

The following conversation is had thousands of times in nurseries every single day:
“We tore it all out, now its a blank slate, what do we do?”
“In your perfect universe, this new plant would be how tall and how wide when its mature in 10 years?”

Now this story is about to go one of two very distinct ways:
1) “We never want anything over 2-3 feet tall and wide. We NEVER want to have to prune it, let alone even think about it.”
OR
2) “Why can’t I just put in that plant that wants to be 25 feet tall, I will simply prune it into submission? It worked for my Dad.”

So, where does that leave us with our choices and options for the right plant in the right place? The future is now, the forecast for spectacular selection of dwarf plants of ALL types has never been better, you really can have the best of both worlds. Breeders and growers are coming out with new dwarf cultivars of nearly everything. You won’t have to settle for not having a Lilac if you can’t fit a 9-12 foot shrub in your small space garden.

Lest you think I have forgotten my foliage obsession, here is where we REALLY start to get some excitement. You CAN have magnificent color, texture, layering and multi-season interest in small garden spaces by focusing on those new plant introductions available to you these days. Dive right in!

Pick your foliage color palette, stick to it, repeat often and then break all the rules. 🙂 There is simply no need to comply with rigid old standards of cramming giant plants up against the house when you have so many foliage forward options to drool over that are low maintenance, colorful and elegant.

The forecast? Our new sized lots have forced us to change how we design our gardens and landscapes. We mix edibles with ornamentals and we focus on layering in some gorgeous foliage that FITS our space rather than forcing it to conform to our lack of selection. And we are vastly more fortunate than our grandparents to have such a huge selection of stunning foliage choices to try out every year.

What are you still doing here? Get out and shop for some NEW FOLIAGE for your landscape!!

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One thought on “The Foliage Forecast – A Tale about Transition and the Size of Things to Come

  1. composerinthegarden

    Love the play of colors and textures in the photo – yummy! Its so easy to make “eventual size” mistakes. Early in my gardening years, I started filling garbage bags with leaves and put them in the garden beds to get a better perspective on how much space even a 3’x3′ or 4’x4′ shrub really takes up in the garden – a real eye opener. Great post!

    Reply

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