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?