On plunking

The very first garden bed I carved out of this yard is in front of the picture window in the livingroom and facing the street. It’s a half roundish space roughly 8×12′ and when we moved in it was inhabited by 3 large meatball-sheared bronzy-green chamaecyparis and one large perfectly rotund forsythia. All planted in rock mulch. For the entertainment of my new neighbors, I dug the blobs out by myself and as much of the rock mulch as I could scrabble. For the sake of having at least one established shrub in my garden I left the forsythia and imagined allowing it to grow and arch in the way they do when they’re set free.

I can't even get to the spigot anymore. And then I started plunking. When you only have one bed, it fills up pretty fast. Needless to say, over the intervening couple of years I’ve continued to whack back the forsythia to accommodate everything else. All free. All plunked. Even since creating more garden in the yard, I’ve continued to plunk things – inappropriate things – in that first bed. I’m not sure why it always seems like such a good idea. There’s a very tall variegated grass that resembles corn and will probably run now that it’s established, a tiny buckeye, a suddenly enormous buddleja, and a prized clerodendrum not to mention the lavenders, sedums, sage, and other various and sundry aggressive plants like oenothera, forget-me-not and rudbeckia. Everything planted too closely and looking now more like a giant heap of weedy abandon than a garden. And since I filled up that bed, the rest of the garden is starting to go the same way due to further plunkage. I think it’s time for a design. Some feng shui that doesn’t make my chi feel squished. A plan.

I always think when I’m plunking, “I can move this later when I figure out where it needs to go.” Right. It seems so doable when the plants are only 12″ tall… The clerodendrum is the only thing in that bed I want to keep for sure more or less where it is and I know for certain now that the forsythia has got to go. It served its purpose. That will give the tiny buckeye more light and a prayer but the buddleja is probably still in the wrong spot. What was I thinking with that grass, exactly?

I’m a little worried that when I finally do some editing this fall, I’ll see it as yet another plunkportunity and the cycle will begin all over again.  But at least now that I know what doesn’t work (a lot of large plants in a small bed), I might be a step closer to knowing what I want. And isn’t that the keystone right there, of a happy garden design?

6 thoughts on “On plunking

  1. sigh and plunk. I know. That’s how I got gaudy hot bee balm in my cool blue & white bed–couldn’t stand the empty space. Craig calls it the “bucket and shovel method,” walking around looking for a spot that looks good 🙂
    I was hoping that next week you could suggest good spots for 3 (count em’) shrubs we’ve been given recently: a buddleja that I know will get too big wherever it goes, a viburnum that will need room, and a deutzia that I’m told will seed all around…
    Design indecision has made me wait too long and miss the window for seed sowing in come cases and in others lose plants to drying out in pots while I hemmed&hawed. sooo, kerplunk!

  2. Deutzia huh? I almost brought a seedling home and then took another look at the parent plant. Bigger than my house. (almost true.) It’ll be really fun to help plunk plants in not-my-garden! -kris

  3. Where you by chance standing over my shoulder as I gazed at two beds that are both victims of my plunking? One is quite prominent and everyone looks askance at it each time they pull in the driveway! I am looking at the plunkportunities my perennial holding area offers me. It a delicious collection of coneflowers, shrubs and other goodies! Just call me the ultimate plunk gardener! Plunk needs to be listed as a new gardening term! We must conjugate plunk~~I plunk, you plunk, we all plunk. I have plunked, you have plunked, we have plunked. I am plunking…etc! gail

  4. Plunking is inevitable if you truly love plants. Your ‘plunked’ bed looks pretty good and I also like the way you ‘set free’ your forsythia.

  5. I am a plunkstress in the extreme. Part of it is my site’s challenges – vast cedar tree root system, poor soil, steep slope, etc. make the “good spots” few and far between, so when I see a plant I want, I just get it and then have to squeeze it in. No design sense to speak of in my brain, then I am bummed when things start to look stupid and then have a rip-out fest. Could you have a fellow gardener friend over to lend an impartial opinion? Sometimes it helps me to have a second set of eyes, a friendly one, to tell me what to move and what to keep. In any case, you are doing great with your progress, don’t beat yourself up about it too much. When you garden all day for work, I don’t know how you have any time/energy left over for your own garden!?!

    Oh, in my family we call plunking “whomping in.”

  6. Karen, I can’t believe I never responded to this – I love “whomping in”! I’m definitely gearing up for a fall “rip-out fest” and my co-worker Gail has promised to come over and give me the benefit of her eyes. I – and the garden – desperately need some constructive criticism! And you’re right about the energy part – I was just talking to Z about pacing myself at work to try to keep the I’m-on-vacation vibe going whenever I’m at home. -kris

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