Decorating styles come and go, both indoors and out. Home improvement shows will tell you that the kitchen you redecorated just 5 years ago is now “dated.”
Landscaping trends may not change quite that fast – but they do change. Unfortunately, some folks seem to be stuck in the 17th Century. Now that’s really dated!
What I’m referring to is the outdated tendency to train and chop and prune plants into unnatural shapes. It can be the common practice of planting the same type of shrub in a straight line and pruning them into a wall. Most people call these “hedges” and think it is the height of fashion.
I’ll never forget when Neil Sperry said to me, many years ago, “If God had wanted us to have square plants, he would have given us square plants!” We consider Neil the foremost authority on gardening in Texas, so I rate his opinions very highly.
Some folks take it even further, wanting matching plants on either side of the door or gate that have been painstakingly pruned into spirals or “pompons.” That is certainly a style. But here are the issues with relying too heavily on these artificial styles:
*Extra maintenance. Many customers tell us they want easy maintenance, then choose plants that must be constantly trimmed and pruned to keep them to a desired shape or size.
*What happens when one plant dies? If you have a long row of identical plants or two matching plants and something happens to one (remember the terrible freezes of February 2021 or our recurrent drought periods?). Then you are left with a gap in the row of mature plants you can’t match, or a replacement plant that will never match the mature plant that survived.
I can’t tell you how many people have been trying for two years or more to find a replacement plant that is an exact match to one they lost. It ain’t happening.
*Plants are individuals and don’t always grow at the same rate. Two plants bought at the same time and planted right next to each other will not grow and mature just the same. Ever. Just like two children from the same parents, raised just the same, plants will not look alike or grow to the same height. That’s nature.
So not only is the matchy-matchy, totally symmetrical style outdated, it has a lot of practical drawbacks.
Here are some better practices:
*Go for curves instead of straight lines.
*Plant groups of different varieties to play up contrasting foliage color and texture. If one plant dies and you can’t find an exact replacement, the new plant will fit right in.
*If you need short plants, pick dwarf varieties instead of constantly pruning a plant that wants to grow big.