My planting style might, at best, be described as willy-nilly. Certain deficits of spatial imagination make it almost impossible for me to picture the eventual size of a specimen I am planting. Furthermore, I self-servingly subscribe to a philosophy of plant-crowding that allows me to justify ever more additions. I’ll admit that my relationship to plants is acquisitive and that my aspirations are encyclopedic, reigned in only by my tastes, which I like to think of as discriminating.

All of this to say that I am frequently forced to transplant when one plant begins to crowd its neighbor out, when foreground obliterates background, when adjacent foliage or flowers feel redundant in color, shape (I subscribe to a loose philsophy of foils, contrasts, defamiliarization).

Despite my impulsive nature, I contemplate a transplant long before I execute it. The fear of setting a plant back or ending its life altogether (which experience has proven a not inconcievable outcome) stays my hand. But the rains have come and this task can be postponed no longer if I want to give everything time to settle in before the killing frost/killing drought.

1. Japanese fiber banana (Musa basjoo). This plant has been kept thus far indoors and is none too happy about it. An ominous black has asserted itself between stem and leaves, and several of the older leaves are yellow-browning at the tips to signal their displeasure. Recently, a whole new planting area adjacent to the moderating influence of house-heat has been tagged for planting, and I must and shall relocate this sorry specimen there.

2. Bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare “Rubrum”). A fascinating, feathery friend that found its way to an overcrowded area at the corner of the house. The enchanting effect of its delicate foliage is lost, I fear, through juxtaposition with plants that also function best as foils to the standard issue, moderately sized, green-leaved denizens of the perennial bed. It would be best served by relocation among the course, the vegetal, the squat.

3. Heucheras and Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis). Ah, but little did I know your kind when I planted you in this bright, parching spot. Your leaves have remained undersized, your borders brown and crispy. You have failed to indulge the incompetent gardener with a stalk of charming, unremarkable blooms. Research suggests that you belong in part shade, and I am developing a plan for your diaposal at the border of the woodland.

4. Grape (Vitis osceola Muscat). Another plant placed in a moment of desperation, when the garden seemed brimful. The grape’s 2 bareroot brethren never sprouted leaves at all, but this one grew and thrived in its inauspicious corner. Yet the grape’s proximity to the domineering trumpet vine suggested a power struggle that the prolific trumpet would easily win. I have wracked my brains for a superior situation and narrowed the alternatives down to 2: along the front fence or in back, trained along a fence which has yet to be built.

6. Red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) and Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius). I have several of these natives, but only the currant growing in full shade could be described as happy. The others suffered sunburn during our hottest, dryest days, from which they have not fully bounced back. I am thinking of moving these to full shade as well.

7. Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana). Almost annihilated by a deer, this native has put on a brave new set of leaves. It was planted – not by me, for a change – in an awkard location too near other large shrubs on the one hand and a fig tree on the other. I feel that another part-shade location would suit it far better in the long run.

8. Bottle brush (Callistemon “Little John”) Speaking of poor spatial reasoning, I frequently fail upon purchasing a plant to make note of its mature height. This I planted near the house to take advantage of the winter heat, at the back of a cluttered area, where its dwarfish height would inevitably fall short of striking. Now this friend is destined for the same “new” bed that promises a better way of life to my banana.

9. Heathers were planted in various locations around the yard, but appear to have prospered only in the part-shade beneath the dogwood tree. One, I confess, had to be uprooted following an ignominious death. Another has looked Death in the eye, yet prevailed. However, this heather is but a shadow of its former self, having been browned by the sun at the base of all its branches. Before this unbecoming brown hue creeps further up each branch, I have resolved to relocate this heather to a more suitable position beneath the dogwood, which its kinsman has already endorsed.


7 thoughts on “Transplants

  1. You’re definitely not alone in facing this problem. I almost always plant too close together, I don’t like to see bare soil, and it’s sometimes a big intellectual effort to find a space to move a transplant to! I have a lot of Heucheras and Lady’s Mantle in my garden, and they are great in dappled shade, although here the Alchemilla flowers much more profusely in the sunnier side ‘half shade’ than in more fully spots.

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  2. My gardening aspirations are so much like yours. I’m gardener who has to have one of everything and this is exacerbated by being part of SoS and seeing NH gardens with plants that are often unsuitable for my conditions. I do like the ground to be fully covered though, so everything is crammed tigh

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