Gardening to scale – Lincoln Journal Star

Whether you have a small lot on which to garden or a large area, scale is important. Available space dictates the size, number and choice of plants.

In a small garden, just one or two specimen plants might be enough to provide visual impact. A fading perennial or a cracked container pot is, unfortunately, just as noticeable.

A large garden requires multiples of each perennial to be noticed. A single perennial can be all but invisible in a mass of others. Shrubs and small trees make realistic alternatives to perennials to fill space.

My own garden experiences cover small to large scale, moving from a condo to a townhouse to an urban home to an acreage. Each change in space reframed my thinking on what to grow.

Condominium living (in my case, an owned apartment with shared ownership of common areas) limited “gardening” to houseplants. My decade there was terrific for my many African violets, in part due to my focus on indoor growing (and great northeast-facing windows).

A move to a townhome allowed me to dip my toe into gardening outdoors. I ripped out overgrown evergreens alongside a walkway and installed small barberry shrubs (which, if there today, may be nipping at the heels of passersby). Planting space along a patio allowed me to dabble in annuals.

When my husband and I purchased a house on a cul-de-sac, with one-quarter acre of land, it was gardening nirvana. So much space!

While the gardening space was exponentially bigger than at the townhome, outdoor work was manageable. We replaced a collapsing railroad-tie terrace with undulating concrete block, repositioned and added perennials and shrubs, and installed more trees. We earnestly deadheaded annuals and perennials on weekends, including regular pinching of four lovely mum plants from early to mid-summer. We strategically placed a few black-eyed Susans so that post-bloom daffodil foliage would be hidden as it faded.

The cul-de-sac garden was manageably ambitious.

Then we moved to a home with three acres of land.

Several oversized garden berms and many plantings around the house make the idea of weekly deadheading impractical, if not laughable. Hiding 100 daffodil blooms takes more than a few black-eyed Susans.

Instead of four mum plants, we have more than 60, spread over multiple garden areas. Regularly pinching individual buds on 60 plants? Um, no. I use shears to cut off the top one-fourth or so of the mums a couple of times during May and June and call it good.

Over time, we have replaced thirsty plants and those requiring special care with drought-tolerant plants needing minimal maintenance.

Whether scaling up to a larger gardening space or down to a small outdoor – or even a strictly indoor – space, it is important to think about the type of plants, their ultimate size and care required. While it can be challenging to assure that everything is in proportion and the scale is appropriate, it is well worth the effort to create a visually exciting landscape regardless of size.


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