Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Plant Failer, or Admitting Plant Failure and What to do

Garden landscape design is a special skill.  Personally I know lots of plants and how to grow them, but to put them together in a pleasing design that looks good through the growing season isn't a skill that comes to me naturally. There is higher education training and landscape certificates for this profession and I greatly respect anyone who puts out a shingle and is doing quality work.  I try to use a designer anytime it works within the budget and recommend others do the same. Asking a garden friend with a good eye for design and plant knowledge is also recommended.  It's a nice gesture to offer to pay for a friend's advice or treat them to a special meal or bottle of wine. 

What should you do with areas in the landscape that need a facelift or a few minor adjustments? Maybe some plants haven't performed to your expectations, or they are the wrong plant in the wrong place, or worse the plant has the "I don't like you, so won't grow for you either" blues. That's a reach, plants generally don't get personal.  Most likely it is a sun issue (too much or too little) or soil problem (fertility or drainage) which explains why the plant is not acting correctly, i.e. not growing.  The question is - do you seek help from a professional, the talented friend or do it yourself? 

I'm going to go solo and design an area in our landscape that is way underperforming. Four years ago I planted several of the same hardy shrub roses that were supposed to form a nice size hedge, at least that's what I asked the plants to do.  I spaced them close enough together to give them room to grow and establish, yet intermingle and form a growing unit that would be spectacular in bloom, plus double as a living fence to keep Ferris in check.  I extensively researched the type, size and color of roses that I wanted and ended up ordering them online.  That might have been mistake one. They arrived in planting tubes which are supposed to be potted up for a season for better root establishment.  It said that right on the planting instructions in the box, but I figured with good soil preparation and the ideal east-facing location that I'd take a chance and go for it.  Plus I phoned the company and they said people often plant the tubes with excellent success, yeah, those customers must live in California  where roses grow so well they have a parade named in their honor!

Gorgeous rose and color on the few that bloomed!
In the ground they went, all nine of them.  I lost two roses after the first year. Maybe not enough mulch for their first winter?  I was able to replace them the next spring.  One died the following year and then I received an email saying the company was going out of business. They had one of my variety left, so I ordered and paid as much on shipping as the cost of the plant.  I'm sure they knew people wanted certain varieties and they'd be willing to pay the cost, who can blame them. I paid without batting an eye.

That's not a typo you see in the name, it is 'Kordes' Brillant,' a pretty orange/red shrub rose that is supposed to get five feet tall and wide. "Not bloody likely!"  And to top off my plant death frustration, the plants simply did not grow well or even attempt to form a hedge, heck they didn't even grow like a shrub rose!  I got a cane here or there, some flowered, but for the most part they looked wimpy....like a Charlie Brown group of sad roses (the photo tells the story).  

'Brillant' roses with creeping baby's breath groundcover
I won't lie, it's rather embarrassing to admit my rose growing failure (I am an active member in good standing with the Denver Rose Society after all).  But four years is long enough for plants to sink or swim. So as they say in our group "shovel prune" the rose if not performing (or have reverted to Dr. Huey, that's a blog for another time).  I have some replacement plant ideas in mind, but need to put them on paper and get to the garden centers soon and start planting.  I'll keep you posted on my progress.  Or just check back in another four years to see how the bed is coming along.  


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