In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
May, 2003
Regional Report

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1063

Consider the mature size of a shrub before planting -- this rhododendron needs regular pruning to keep it from blocking my window.

Big Stuff: A Legacy in Pink

When the rhododendron outside my kitchen window blooms, I know spring is truly here. When the blooms block my view through the window, I know it is time to trim it back (again). I am not the one who planted that big old pink rhodie some thirty years ago, so it's not my fault that a monster of a plant was inadvertently put into our foundation planting. I just have to live with the consequences.

With my rhodie, the consequences aren't so bad. It can be trimmed back without too much trouble, and I really do love the pink explosion. I look forward to it every year, and I maintain the plant as large as I can because I like it so much. To me, it is an integral part of spring in my yard. It's just lucky I like pink. Lots of pink.

Flowering Shrub or Ugly Weed in Disguise?
But sometimes there are more serious consequences -- the wrong plant in the wrong place is no better than a weed. It grows too big, gets in the way, suffers ritual meatball-style pruning, loses its natural shape, and sometimes doesn’t even bloom anymore. So in desperation we remove it, employing the old chain-and-a-truck trick to rip it out by the roots or endless hours with a chain saw and an axe, digging and chopping out roots. Or maybe we give it a little glyphosate, then spend weeks and possibly several more treatments waiting for the chemical to be translocated to the roots and kill it. What a forlorn mess.

Measure First, Plant Once
While I was out nursery hopping this past weekend, too many times I overheard people earnestly selecting plants based on their size in the pot at the nursery. They were not at all concerned about what it would do in the future, just how it would look in the available space now -- today. Keep in mind that an unassuming "dwarf" variety might reach eight feet or more (e.g., dwarf burning bush). And in time, a teensy, expensive, cute little boxwood or rhododendron might reach two feet, four feet, or maybe fifteen like mine, depending on variety and the growing conditions.

So please, measure your space and research your shrubs (and trees) before you buy. Find out what a particular variety is expected to do in your local area, what kind of growing conditions it needs, and how big it gets!


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