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Question: Obsession or restraint?

anget

By anget

51 comments


Question: can you have an attractive-looking garden if you are obsessive about plants? I have been thinking about this a lot recently.
I admit that I have been an obsessive but am now trying to quell that (potentially expensive) streak. When I began gardening many years ago now, I bought anything that I could afford that caught my eye and without much thought to “where” or “why”. My OH called me a “plant, hole, hole, plant” gardener and he didn’t mean it as a compliment! Then I took a beginners’ RHS course, and I got a greenhouse and started to sow seeds and take cuttings and ended up with so many plants that I didn’t know what to do with them all. (And I’m still guilty of this.)
And the garden, although full to overflowing, looked a mess to my eye. A relative told me that I was good at plants but not much good at gardening. I took it on the chin because I had to agree.
I have read books galore to try to improve what I do and things are getting better visually on my plot. The gardeners on this site have helped me with all their photos. It’s definitely easier to firm up ideas when looking at real gardens rather than at Chelsea or other idealised pictures.
I have read somewhere that we should limit ourselves to far fewer types of plants in the garden, placed repeatedly throughout our borders for a more cohesive look, but it seems to me that many of us simply can’t bring ourselves to be that restrained. In an ideal world I would agree with them because to my eye, the result is far more visually satisfying. But I love wildlife gardens, and I love cottage gardens, and I love urban green spaces, so what to do?
And OH and I are getting to the age where we’re thinking of downsizing so what would happen then? We still dream of a bigger garden…. but common sense says a small one is a better option – with fewer plants! So what to do?


Cuttings and seeds and new acquistions….


Another (messy) border that is full to bursting (taken end of May).


Path to greenhouse.


Only 2 of a line of pots alongside the drive by the house.

This gives an idea of what I am up against!!

So, what do you think? Can you ever have too many plants? I know many gardeners on here have large numbers of different plants and manage to create visually satisfying gardens. Please, how do you do it??

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Comments

 

I also end up with lots of plants, mainly taken by cuttings or self seeded. I take great pleasure at giving them away. I used to go to garden centres but now only go to plant nurseries as I believe in ‘right place, right plant’. Gardening is a very personal pass time, I personally am not so interested in growing fruit & veg and like you prefer the cottage garden look. Perennials mixed with annuals mainly. If you end up with a glut, maybe get to know local fellow gardeners and do either swaps or just give them away. I used to give my overspill to my boys primary or to a friend who was very thankful. There is no right way to garden but visiting other people’s gardens also helps to get inspiration and ideas about how to plant your borders. I’ve pinched many ideas over the last few years!! Maybe make a list of plants you need to fill gaps in your borders before you go to garden centre? Anyway, these are just my suggestions, I’m sure other gardeners will have other ideas.

21 Jun, 2020

 

When we first arrived here,20 years ago,the garden was full of conifers and grass.I had always wished for a garden that encircled the house,which is what we bought with a downsized home.I must admit in the beginning I went mad removing conifers and adding perennials. So much so,in a few years it began to look overcrowded and nothing particularly stood out.In the last few years,much has been removed and more statement plants added.I still couldn't be without the perennials. Anget,your point about repeating the same plant throughout a border I like very much...this year I've tried this with Monardas and Achilleas.We will see how it transpires.
Hope this helps a little. Forgot to say...

As you've probably guessed, I'm a little obsessed with order!!! I'm also keen on creating small seating areas in the garden.Each one with a different theme.

21 Jun, 2020

 

I think it's wonderful you have the talent and means to express your love an interest in plants. They are extremely rewarding and bring much beauty to the environment and to ourselves and with rich rewards. My tomatoes and peppers are booming and I definitely can't eat all these tomatoes myself. I have a rose from my grandmother's garden that I cherish- the fragrance of grandma, irises from my mom's garden - they smell of lilac - my mom's fragrance! etc, etc. I've also started to appreciate the native plants which grow here naturally that are often forgotten in lieu of the flashy new hybrids at the shops.

One idea is to consider other ways you can express your interest and love of plants beyond jamming too many plants into one small space. One member here propagates plants for an annual plant sale/convention. Consider the local parklands and community places where you can volunteer to create new gardens Just think how that could benefit the environment and you can create beautiful places for others to enjoy.

21 Jun, 2020

 

I like gardens with a natural look and are gentle on the eye. I am not too keen on an over manicured look. I like cottage gardens the best of all but can admire so many other kinds too.

I can appreciate all types of gardens but I tend to home in on a small area of a garden that really appeals to me like a seat positioned in a perfect spot or a water feature that is calming and relaxing or a pretty little courtyard in a sheltered spot.

Don't be too hard on yourself. You have a genuine love of plants and their beauty and you know such a lot about them.
There is no need to change your approach at all!

21 Jun, 2020

 

Thank you for your comments.

Amsterdam: I have given lots of plants away over the years, and my daughter has been a regular recipient. I have cut back on the number of seeds I have tried to grow this year. Thanks for the other ideas.

M'land: We have begun to clear out our bottom border and reposition some of the shrubs. I think it is beginning to look more 'planned'. I want to introduce much more order and hope for a more 'regulated' look so I will try repetition of someplants.. We definitely have too much herbaceous 'fluff'. It's working out what to discard that's the problem!

Bathgate: I, like you, have begun to prefer the simpler, more natural-looking plants that the bees and insects prefer. That is helping me to cut out a lot of what catches my eye! I still get a thrill when a cutting 'takes' or seeds germinate. I think that's the side of gardening I like best and wish I had thought of it as a career when I was younger. Too late now!! And it's great to share it all with more wildlife.

W'rose: I think you and Meadowland have the right idea about concentrating on smaller areas, one at a time.

Thank you for your kind words.

21 Jun, 2020

 

My garden always ends up manic. I have tried colour coordination, but the plants have a mind of their own and I can't remove anything that is pretty regardless of colour. Each year I decide to have more shrubs and less flowers, then do the opposite. I do love to have colour for as long as possible, so do discriminate in favour of long flowering plants. Towards the back of my borders I am growing buttercups, only because I can't reach them to remove. Next year my garden will be more organised ..... but I say that every year:-(

21 Jun, 2020

 

BA : I, too, am trying more shrubs as most of my borders look like they're having 'bad hair days' with the riot of flowers and lack of shape. I know what you mean by 'manic' but I have to say your garden looks very well proportioned and well-planned. I'm trying to go much more for the 'well-planned'. Easier said than done, isn't it?

21 Jun, 2020

 

I'm something of a plantaholic too but I do know where I'm going to put something (usually) when I buy it. But for the past couple of years, I've been looking at the bigger picture in my borders which are now beginning to look better for some sort of control

21 Jun, 2020

 

I have very much enjoyed looking at your unusual plants, Andrew, and admire the ability with which you grow them. From what I see from your blogs. your garden looks very attractive also. So I see it is possible to have lots of plants and attractive presentation too! I am trying to be more discriminating in my choices and try to work how best to lay them out in the borders!

21 Jun, 2020

 

Anget - some of the things I've found that have helped me:

Limit your colour palate in a border. I have a 'yellow' border, that includes oranges and creams, but has primarily yellow flowers. Or limit an area to two or three colours (such as blue, white and yellow)

'Mirror planting.' If I have a red flower plant at one end of a border, I put a pink- or orange-flowered version at the other end to balance it

Central feature. Putting a statement plant near the centre of a border. This could be a shrub surrounded by perennials, or something tall among small ones

21 Jun, 2020

 

Oh dear. I'm rather a random gardener, going for plants I really like, fitting them in somewhere, and hoping that the design will appear, which it doesn't. But I do like wandering round looking at what's happening and wishing I'd done something else. I do sometimes have a plan but something usually goes a bit wrong and it never looks quite how it was meant to. I try to balance the colours though and love to have lots of blue with some deep cream and the odd bit of bright pink. But it isn't planned, its just bits added when I think about it.
At the moment a big Viburnum opulus roseum and a Physocarpus have got very tall so the bed in front of them is now in deep shade and needs replanting - lots of scope there and possibly even a bit of planning! No longer practical to keep cutting them back.

21 Jun, 2020

 

Andrew: Thanks for those suggestions. I will keep them in mind. It will help me reduce the quantity of plants!

Stera:I'm at the "wandering around looking at what's happening and wishing I'd done something else" stage (as you call it.) I've been caught out by the fact that most things here grow much more prolifically than they ever have done in earlier gardens (because we're on clay), and it's all jostling for space. In those gardens I had to buy lots of plants to fill the space because lots died or dwindled. (We were on shallow chalk). Not so here, and so I have far too much material. It's how to edit it and make it feel coherent.

22 Jun, 2020

 

you can't have too many plants , they look so lush too .

22 Jun, 2020

 

I love plants and have to consider what I can grow in the areas of the garden. I have a lot of shade and want something to look at throughout the year.

I have colour themed borders and allow some plants to self seed through the borders to bring coherence to it. I have Nigel and V bonariensis doing that in the blue/pink/white border that gets full sun. In March there is 70% bare soil by mid summer probably less than 5%. I also find that the colour changes through the season the purples and whites giving way to blues and pink now.

I regularly thin clumps out and these get potted on for sale at charity events and the gardening clubs I belong to: profits going to our local hospice and McMillan nurses. Due to Covid 19 I am currently keeping upwards of 500 plants going.

I prefer a cottage garden feel and whilst I admire formal planting schemes it isn't for me. I agree with Andrew about colour balance and have done that with my yellow/orange/red border.

22 Jun, 2020

 

Anget,how do you feel about concentrating on one area at a time?I've found that method very useful.Take photos of a particular area before and after new planting to keep a record of how the chosen plants are growing. I've tried to follow this plan over the last few years.Just a thought.🙋‍♀️

22 Jun, 2020

 

Fernever: believe me, I have FAR too many plants... I like lush, just not overcrowded!! And as I get older I want to be able to stand up and hoe away the weeds round them, not have to keep bending and fighting my way through the jungle to do it! Thanks for your nice comment..

SBG: It's been useful to hear how others tackle layout and it has given me ideas. I think I've been too tempted to fill the 'spaces' in March only to find that everything is far too tangled in June... I think there's a lot more plant movement ahead to try and remove some of the colour clashes. The answer is obviously to think much more before I buy. Must try harder to curb my enthusiasm.

M'land: That's just what I've started to do. There will be a lot of moving about in the Autumn. In the meantime I intend to take out the material that I just don't love anymore. (If I can get OH to agree. It is his garden, too. Allegedly).

22 Jun, 2020

 

If I get tired of a certain plant or it doesn't meet expectations, I won't hesitate to rip it out and plant something else. I also enjoy growing seeds from hostas & day lilies that the bees have pollinated because...well...just because.

22 Jun, 2020

 

Oh, B'gate, it's the 'just because' that's my downfall!
I have managed to harden my heart more and more to take out things I don't like (that bright pink rose 'Bonica' that everyone else on here seems to love is still in my sights, despite its good growth and disease resistance. I resent it 'cos I can't find a good reason to throw it out except that I can't stand the colour! I'm in a minority of one..) This weekend we took out 2 shrubs and threw away a lot of herbaceous stuff from one section, so all is not lost.

22 Jun, 2020

 

When this virus locked me in Ange I sowed every packet of seeds I possessed, the idea this year had originally been not to bother with flowers seeds and only sow half the amount of tomato's and cucumber plants, I was leaving one g'house empty as I intend getting rid of it, that changed and both are in use, I ended up with hundreds of plants but they have gradually disappeared over the last few weeks...Some went to my daughter, the rest are in my own garden, I won't throw a plant away so always find a space somewhere, lol....my style is Cottage garden in the bigger plots, the borders are a mix of rockery, perennials ( as some self seeded there, doesn't matter if they're not at the front )and annuals in any spaces which do appear each summer when I chelsea chop my springtime spreading plants, my preference is definitely as many perennials as I can fit in, colour all year round, mine is crowded but I only get an odd weed , why you may ask, that's easy, I don't give them room to grow......I like how it is now, I can cope with it although hubby has a moan on occasion as I'm s'posed to be making life easier, he knows nothing about plants and refuses to listen when I tell him it is easier, anyway he has no right to moan as its my job to keep it nice, don't trust him ......

22 Jun, 2020

 

Lincs: That's what I'm trying to do - make it easier to deal with as well as more acceptable to my eye. In the end it's all in the eye of the beholder, I know.
And there is always the added complication of those who share their gardens with another who has equal say in what goes! Compromise can be difficult...

22 Jun, 2020

 

Anget, I saw the Rose Bonica at the garden centre a few days ago and was also very disappointed in it!!
We must be in the minority of two!!

22 Jun, 2020

 

Oh, W'rose, you've made my day - I've been feeling so lonely!!

22 Jun, 2020

 

Best thing that's been said to me today!!!
:-)

22 Jun, 2020

 

I can't read all the comments above but what I say is do what you want. We're all different and few plants suit some people, while lots of plants suit other people (like me !!)

A garden with lots of plants may look a mess to some people (who don't appreciate them) and a garden with few plants would be boring to other people (like me)

You see, there are plant collectors and there are designers ... and I don't think it matters what your garden looks like if you're a plant collector. What matters are the individual plants, and the fact that you've got them in your garden.

I know I have lots of plants and like you I can't (and don't want to) stop buying them, because then I'd be bored.
Beryl (who is not here any more) was the same. Whenever we'd go somewhere I would buy plants, and she would also buy plants ...
I'll never forget the time we went to Cornwall on a holiday - the day we were due to come home I was loading things into the car and there just wasn't enough room for everything because we had bought so many plants.
I said to Beryl "You have a choice - we can take the luggage home or we can take the plants home, but there is not enough room in the car for both" ... and she said we'll take the plants and leave the luggage behind :D haha

In the end she sat in the passenger seat and I crammed the plants all around her and on her lap, and that was how we got home ... and laughing at ourselves all the way :D

Well I suppose the size of your new garden will dictate how many plants you can buy but I don't think you'll ever be able to stop buying them completely ... it's the way you are :)
just like me !
Now that's the most long winded comment I have ever written :D

26 Jun, 2020

 

Watching Gardeners World a few years ago when Toby Bucland was head gardener I remember him saying to plant shrubs around 6ft apart in your borders and then underplant with perennials and that is what I have tried to take on board in my garden, also some tall grasses in place of shrubs in my sunny South facing border, and I seem to be fussy with my colours which annoys my hubby a bit but I am head gardener lol, I agree with AndrewR and like to blend the colours in as the borders go around the garden, whether that is what I get is another matter. As for how many plants I guess that is endless and our tastes are always changing, I don't think I go too mad but have always got some in pots as I can't decide where to put them even though i usually buy them for a specific reason :-))

27 Jun, 2020

 

Thank you, Hywel for your detailed comments. They make a lot of sense, and I fear you know me too well...
I loved your story about your holiday with Beryl. She sounds as if she had a good sense of humour and had her priorities well sorted out! It made me laugh because we've been close to that situation too on return from holidays, especially when we've been to new haunts that have nurseries that we haven't visited before.

27 Jun, 2020

 

Daylily, I am trying to follow that precept a bit more now by taking out 'stuff that I don't love' anymore and freeing up space. Toby's comments do make sense and I would love the chance to start again! (But I think I'd be heading for the divorce courts after all the effort OH has put into clearing the borders for planting). We cleared one section a couple of weeks ago and moved bits about and I think at least that area will lookless frenetic.
BTW, I wish they'd give Toby a permanent BBC slot again...
And thank you for your thoughts. Very helpful.

27 Jun, 2020

 

Thanks Anget, we have just taken a large messy shrub out lonicera nitida, been in for many years and always threatening to get rid, so a new planting area but it is the north east facing corner which I think will be a little tricky, it still needs properly clearing and a bit of thought as to what to plant there and we 're thinking of extending the borders too for next year, we will see ??! I like Toby too, he was on the Chelsea programmes which I enjoyed 👍

27 Jun, 2020

 

Thank you Anget … Beryl left us this February and I often have a laugh to myself when I think of the way we'd never go anywhere without finding a garden centre, and how many plants we'd buy. There's a story behind most of them in this garden ...
You sound very much like both of us :)

27 Jun, 2020

 

I don't think you can ever have too many plants or pots of plants Anget ! i just love a full garden and I have to say that I love my Bonica ! Hahaa! I am going to have to put a picture on here of mine !

27 Jun, 2020

 

Rose, there are far more of you sticking up for 'Bonica' than otherwise! Wildrose and I run the risk of being thrown off the site (!) for not loving it as much as the rest of you do. At the moment it's still in situ. But that may change...

27 Jun, 2020

 

Hywel, it's lovely that you have plants that give such happy memories, and, yes, I think one plantaholic is very much drawn to another.

27 Jun, 2020

 

I am always promising my OH that I won’t buy any more plants.......but he knows I don’t mean it......we have far too many in our small garden......I have one small border that I am really pleased with this year, neat and tidy, which is a first, as long as I don’t add anything else to it, then it will be fine......last Autumn we split all the Leucanthemums, they were far too large, also the Hakon grasses, and the garden looks so much better for it......we also moved several roses, which hasn’t been successful.........the border just doesn’t look right, too many flimsy HGs, and not enough structure....
It is difficult if you’re a lover of plants, we have to accept it, we can make life easier, if we put our minds to it, but it ain’t easy!I know I have tried.......

1 Jul, 2020

 

I know what you mean about not enough structure, DD, it's the bane of my life trying to achieve it. I think what I am trying to do from now on is restrain my attraction to flowers and try and introduce more shrubs. I am starting by removing all the perennials that come in colours that don't appeal so much. (Well, you have to start somewhere!)

2 Jul, 2020

 

Good luck......just this minute taken a delivery from the secret gardening club😂😂😂😂

2 Jul, 2020

 

DD: does your OH know?? Or is the delivery secret too?

2 Jul, 2020

 

Anget, I meant to say that we have had tiny gardens, medium sized ones and a very large one and I have always stuck to my cottage garden style. I would always find room for one. Part of my back way ( my main garden being down the side as it is a corner plot) is now full of large pots with shrubs and trees in, plus various summer bulbs as I wanted it to look like a border, so what I am trying to say is that everyone has their own style and all gardens are lovely! I didn't know I favoured cottage gardens until we moved into Willow Cottage ( which is on here) and I just can't change the way I garden now! You will develop your own style and it doesn't really matter how many plants you have as long as you are happy with it ! Enjoy your garden !

2 Jul, 2020

 

I love your garden, Rose. I am trying to add more shrubs now as I know I tend to fall on anything that is floriferous. I suppose my problem is I don't know what my 'style' is or how to achieve it.

2 Jul, 2020

 

I think it will just come to you Anget. Grasses also add interest in your flower garden, but if you are happy doing what you are doing, then don't over think it and it will all fall into place. When I met my hubby 27 years ago , I wasn't a gardener and started off by buying gardening books and just looking at them I found which type of garden I wanted and it evolves from there.

3 Jul, 2020

 

My advice would be to looks at as many pictures of gardens as possible, and save the ones you like. This may help you to sort out your style

3 Jul, 2020

 

Hywel made me smile Anget because we have done exactly the same when on holiday, always bringing plants home !

3 Jul, 2020

 

Oh, Rose, there's no hope for any of us really, is there?

3 Jul, 2020

 

Not really Anget ! Hahaa!

7 Jul, 2020

 

What an excellent blog, it's promoted lots of discusion. I did enjoy reading all the comments.
My OH won't garden, so the garden is mine, too small, but overflowing with plants.

25 Jul, 2020

 

Thanks, Siris. Having a husband who takes an interest too makes planning even trickier! I envy you your knowledge of unusual plants. You have a space full of lovely and interesting material, much of which I had never heard of before. So I have discovered a lot more new plants to covet....

25 Jul, 2020

 

Anget - I have a 'wants' list of plants I have come across that I would like to have. It never gets any shorter!

25 Jul, 2020

 

Oh, Andrew, I've put lots of your plants onto my 'favourites' so I can keep them for reference. Please can you stop posting such tempting pictures?? I am learning a lot about plants that are new to me. Thank you.

25 Jul, 2020

 

Anget - some of the plants I grow are only available from specialist nurseries. Also, I am now attempting to grow some from seed purchased (legally) from abroad, so you won't find them in the local Garden Centre

25 Jul, 2020

 

Andrew: don't worry, I realised that! Thanks for the info.

25 Jul, 2020

 

Goodness I must have missed seeing the second half of this blog for some reason. Just wanted to thank Hywel for his contribution, which I found very comforting. Its the plants that count with me, more than the design.(Though I do admire the lovely designed garden most of you see to have) And although I hear all the advice to out and dispose of ones that are not satisfactory I'm no good at killing things. I have what started off as one Echinops and is now a big clump. The leaves are a mess with brown and yellow marks and every year I plan to take them out - then they flower and the bees love them so, and I can't bear to see things neglected and dying on the rubbish heap... which goes some way to explaining why I will never have an Open Garden day...

25 Jul, 2020

 

Very little of my bits get thrown away, Stera; mostly they're passed on. Took 3 large trays of cuttings, slips and seedlings to someone with a new garden just recently. Hasn't made much of a dent in what I have waiting on the sidelines..

25 Jul, 2020

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