Hatton: Garden modifications

Staff Writer
Amarillo Globe-News
Hatton

My last two articles about obtaining free plants by looking to your own gardens was stimulated by my reworking several garden areas. Now is, perhaps, the best time of the year to start a new garden area or redesign one. In fact, existing plants may be a reason to redesign an area to correct deficiencies in that area.

When designing or redesigning any area there are several basic principles to keep in mind beyond flower colors, plant sizes and types, and the myriad of other things we think about when putting a plan together.

Grouping plants with like environmental requirements together is a basic design principle that makes the care and maintenance easier and possibly cheaper. For example, planting Impatiens that require shade and moderate water with Penstemons that are low water use and which require sun, will cause problems for one or the other, if not both. Penstemons planted in shade and given too much water will not only not thrive but will likely die prematurely from crown or root rot. Conversely, Impatiens planted in full sun and deprived of enough water to survive will likewise die or perform poorly.

In a large area, one will likely have a combination of perennials and annuals along with shrubs and possibly a tree. All these must be compatible regarding their light and water requirements. This is not the impossible task that it may seem to some, but it is the principle that needs to be kept in mind during plant selection.

Other less obvious considerations are soil type, wind, and ease of maintenance. While most of us do not have widely varying soil types in our gardens, such as clay in one area and sandy soil in another, many plants have differing needs. One example I have dealt with involves blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum). Like most plants and especially low water use plants, it needs excellent drainage. Additionally, it does better in lean soil, that is, soil that is not full of organic matter. If not given more drainage than many of my other low water use plants require, it is short-lived due to crown rot.

One simple example of the effects of wind has to do with large-leaved plants such as Cannas. Protected areas are needed for these to prevent damaged leaves which make the plants look badly even if the damage is not bad enough to kill the plants.

Ease of maintenance can affect many tasks. Another issue I’ve dealt with was a Washington hawthorne that was planted in a corner too close to the house by a previous owner resulting in the need to gingerly get under the tree and work my way up to trim or remove branches that were growing against the house and scraping the roof. The thorns made the job nearly impossible and very painful. I replaced the tree. Use fall to make large or small changes and keep these few things in mind for the best results.