Don’t Plant So Close [to Me]

That famous Police song from my high school days aside, it’s interesting how the same development has planting design examples to follow and avoid.

Plants don’t need to be second-rate life forms, when humans are there to steward them and the land. What helps once I have a project’s physical geography nailed down using fact (shunning perception), is to think in terms of how a plant will mature where used, without removals or radical maintenance and irrigation.

Photos from Albuquerque, 11/10/2013 –

a 5′ wide space, hardy plants layered to provide year-round greenery…anything here that might be a problem?

…mature Thompson Broom (L in 1st streetscape photo), instead in a 10’+ deep bed; it needs a larger space like this, far more than inches from curb and paving  [QUERCUS design at CNM Workforce Training Center, 2-3 years old]…
Trailing Germander / Teucrium chamaedrys would work better if a layered planting was needed in such a narrow space...installed 2' from the curb, that is
…a more compact, evergreen option to Thompson Broom (R in 1st streetscape photo) can be Trailing Germander / Teucrium chamaedrys [QUERCUS design at Aliso, 1-2 years old]…if a layered planting is really needed in a narrow space…installed 2′ from the curb, that is…
and probably substitute Regal Mist Gulf Muhley with smaller 'Nashville' Purple Muhley / Muhlenbergia rigida 'Nashville' ...sometimes the "artiste"-type of landscape architect/designer needs to become more open to something similar but more suitable, instead of being so rigid; not every type of plant shape exists for them, but all will be happier as a result
…and ‘Regal Mist’ Gulf Muhley could be changed to smaller ‘Nashville’ Purple Muhley / Muhlenbergia rigida ‘Nashville’, if plant layering in a narrower space is so necessary [QUERCUS design at Aliso, 2 years old]…the “artiste”-type of landscape architect / designer can benefit from being open to similar forms more suitable to a space – blessed are the the flexible, for they shall not be easily broken…
…walk a few blocks, and another narrow planting space (4′ wide?)…also with plants that provide winter interest (ignore the hatin’-life blue fescues unsuited to a full sun desert site, plus reflected heat)…Yucca rostrata, Chrysactinia mexicana and Agave parryi ssp. truncata are likely to mature gracefully and thrive in such a space in that project’s zone (arid USDA Zone 8a / Sunset 10[a])…the background plants by the building work well, too


5 Replies to “Don’t Plant So Close [to Me]”

  1. We had to figure this out, good gardens. As if…..the way Bono sings , it’s the end of the world.

    Every where we went, accredited & etc…blah blah blah. Nothing. It WAS the end of the world. We had to leave the accepted garden world, and figure it out.

    Military dads who have done the life/death thing raise children who have to figure it out for themselves.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

    Very interesting perspective, fellow USAF brat! Odd how one type of self-sufficiency breeds another type, but we’re better for it. And so are our/clients’ gardens!


  2. It can be hard to imagine that a little potted plant can grow to some of the sizes they do! For me, sometimes it’s hard to say ‘no’ to all the plants that beg me to take them home – then I have to squeeze them in somewhere! ;O And sometimes I just didn’t do my research and guessed at the sizes. But, professional landscapers (IMO) have no excuse. I always thought professional landscapers that planted plants too closely together were paid by commission on each plant! Or counted on having the future job of removing the plants they planted! ;)

    Very true, and I’ve heard that speculated about professional landscape industry people. But what’s odd, is only the contractors, if slick talkin’, get paid by the same client (sucker) to remove them and replant…the designers who do that actually gain nothing, even if they charge a percentage of construction costs! Then there are field changes…


  3. Such a clever title – made me smile.

    Thanks for the object lessons – I fall prey to this placement mistake fairly often, especially since I’m constrained by budget to buy the smallest available size of many plants.

    It can be so hard to patiently wait for growth – maybe in a future post you could suggest certain drought/heat tolerant annuals to use as fillers while waiting for the money plants to reach maturity?

    Ha! And the funny thing, is how there’s no more cost-conscious way than to give room and not overplant. Excellent idea, as a famous designer in Arizona employed annuals as sacrificial plants.


  4. I see! I love it when you illustrate things this way. it clicks! love your germander/yuccas….

    Interesting, maybe this should be my technique? That’s a Texas Sotol in the germanders:-)


    1. doh! so it is!It already is your technique ;) Has been …foever dude! Don’cha know???!!!

      No but really….seeing designs this way that you share, always hit home…you are so good at this!

      Thanks for the feedback…now, to remember it and do it more. And not “get into trouble” from a few comments like one post this past summer :-)


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