seeing the garden as it will be, and tree following

There's something to be said for buying plants as large as you can afford. It's sensible advice!  But when I'm buying plants, I prefer small, reasonably fast growing young plants.  I love watching them grow bit by bit to gradually fill their allotted spaces.  When small, they tend to grow quicker and healthier than larger specimens with already developed root systems.

Because I don't cosset my plants, there is always a chance they won't survive, and if I invested a lot of money I would get anxious. Many of the plants I want are not available anyway as large specimens.

Gardens exist in time.
There is a sense in which the past, present and future exist simultaneously. I can look at the garden as it is now. I can also look at it as it will be - potentially. When I do this, I don't get put off by the fact that it there's not enough variation in height at the present time. I see it as it will be, perfectly fitting into the overall garden picture.  I'm not interested in an instant garden. How boring - to achieve the desired effect instantly! Then what? Spend the next few years  trimming hedges and weeding?

This wouldn't work for a professional gardener. It wouldn't work if you were gardening to impress. But if you're gardening for fun and want to maintain interest long term - I recommend this approach.

It's easy and tempting to just take attractive and lovely garden photos. I'll resist and use photos to introduce three tiny new garden arrivals to demonstrate how the different way of seeing works ...

Ficus carica St Dominique Violette - grows to 3 m high and 4 metres wide
The fig tree will grow to fill the space between some gum trees and wattles in the back of the garden. There's too much grey there, and the green leaves will provide more varied colour.


Malpighia emarginata Acerola Cherry - grows to 3m high and 2 metres wide
The black arrow points to the cherry tree and the blue arrow points to a new rosemary bush. They will fill the space and provide more height for that side of the front garden. It now looks extra bare because the old Smoke Bush in the far corner has few leaves (eaten by possums) and I recently (radically) cut back the vines and the Plumbago that cover the fence. 


There is lots of potential in this photo. The black arrow points to the Acerola Cherry tree. The other Smoke Bush, relatively new in that spot, will in time dominate the corner fence, and the Plumbago and vines will grow back soon to cover the fence once more. In time the olive tree, cherry tree and Smoke Bush may meet and intertwine, creating a large leafy shelter for wildlife and looking natural and attractive, as if it's always been there.



Sambucus nigra 'Purpurea' Purple Elder - grows to 6m high and 6 m wide
I have been wanting an Elder tree in my garden, but I'm a bit unsure whether it will work in this position. It's possibly too large for this space. But it could work.  It's deciduous,  which means it's easy to move when dormant, and it probably grows a bit slower than evergreens. And large shrubs can be trimmed back. (Although when this one's large, I'll probably be dead or, if not, unlikely to be still gardening)


 Lucy of  Loose and Leafy blog, has been hosting a meme called Tree Following.  I'm joining in, and will follow these three young trees: Purple Elder, Acerola Cherry and St Dominique Violette Fig.  I will follow them as they dig their roots in, and post regular updates on their progress.

I'm Following a Tree
Are You?
Another great site to read up on trees is Treeblogging.com.



Comments

  1. I like how you think. I'm the same way. I was anxious to see it all grow quickly, but I'm loving the slow and eventual process. It has all really come together, but it does take time. And sometimes, it takes a very long time. Like you, I buy small so that I'm not wasting money. That's smart gardening:)

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  2. thanks Chris - I'm pleased that we're on the same page with this. People who own nurseries won't agree with us though ...

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  3. Dear Catmint,
    I agree with you and Chris. I prefer to buy small and watch them grow. I think buying small is better in that if gives the plants more of a chance and as you say it is nice to watch them slowly grow and become at one with their surroundings.
    Having said that though I remember a chap just down the round from our house in Melbourne who had a fully grown Canary Island Palm bought in and planted in his front garden. It was hoisted into position by a crane! That was over ten years ago and it has not died as I pessimistically thought it would!

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    1. Dear Kirk, that tree must have been very important to him, I can't imagine how much it would have cost.

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  4. I like to plant trees myself, not pay others, and that means I tend to buy smaller individuals. I suppose being cheap has something to do with it. But I also like fast growers, like dogwoods.

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    1. I also like fast growers, and many of the Australian natives are very fast, especially wattles - but they also have a relatively short lifespan.

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  5. I agree about planting small. I have noticed that trees and other plants that the birds plant often grow the fastest and are the most vigorous!

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    1. maybe we should leave it to the birds - give them a chance to show their design credentials!

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  6. I work with a tree nursery so getting trees large size and free is no problem for me. I just don't have the space for them. When I got my Lilac trees, I asked my friend for the smallest specimens he had to dig, and they still arrived at 12 feet, 1.5" caliper, but at least they add some structure and height to the garden. Like Jason, I don't have to plant them either. My friend's workers do it. I would never do a client's property with small trees though. They want 'gardens' immediately.

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  7. I guess this points to a difference between DIY gardeners and gardeners' clients.

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  8. I have recently planted several small trees and look forward to following them as they grow in over the next several year.

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  9. I buy small plants, too, mainly because of their cost. Or sometimes, mail order is the only way I can get what I want - and the plants coming through the mail are generally tiny!

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  10. hey Catmint, you know I love growing small plants... every words you wrote here feels like hey I can say this is for myself as well haha... LOL. Seeing little plants grow to mature size is interesting. Like humans, their habits changes too. As for trees, I only consider my frangipani a tree in my garden. I have a really small garden ;-) Enjoy the trees you are 'watching' and have a great week ahead.

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  11. I don't want any more trees in our garden, because the more trees you have, the more you have to rake! I admire trees in other people's gardens.. ;O)

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  12. Living with a tree as it grows from a small specimen makes the shade under which you sit in the summer much more gratifying. On the other hand if one wanted a large, slow growing tree and only had 20 years of gardening left, it might be worthwile to splurge on a larger tree. I'd not be interested in an instant garden as for me being outside, planting, moving, cutting down, etc. (the act of gardening) is the thrill for me. I seldom go outside just to sit; the joy is in the doing.

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  13. I like your philosophy about watching plants grow from the beginning. :) I checked out Loose and Leafy's blog, and I might join in. Thanks! Also, I mentioned to her (and now to you), you might be interested in this photographer's website and book: That Tree.

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    1. thanks for letting me know about the website Beth - i have subscribed to it now. It also gives me a great idea how to approach the tree following. The trees are not going to grow that quickly, so I will try to photograph them in different ways. But options are limited - e.g. when something's so small, I don't think it's possible to get a silhouette!

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  14. "I agree about planting small. I have noticed that trees and other plants that the birds plant often grow the fastest and are the most vigorous!"

    Definitely agree on this one..

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  15. I was lucky that there were mature trees here on our property when we moved in. What I have had to add is the middle layer- the shrubs that grow to a height between the trees above and the perennials below. I think it takes patience and vision to be a gardener. Gardens are always years and years in the making.

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  16. It's good to see a gardener who is not afraid of bare spots in the garden, and even though a dash impatient, is willing to let them fill out. I don't overplant, and usually don't fill in gaps with other stuff. The gardener has the hardest job of all, and that is to look at his garden in three dimensions, it is a constantly changing canvas, and he must try to envision the end result. Great post Catmint.

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  17. Reading these comments, I am smiling. When I wrote this post I actually thought I was writing something quite contentious, and that people would disagree. Lots would, but inside this group of cyberfriends, we're all pretty much on the same page. How wonderful garden blogging is!

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  18. As the Saint says, I like instant gratification! In other words, I like things to grow and fill in quickly. Some things just take too long for me and I get bored with them. But then in time, those slow growers stand out and I am glad I added them...

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    1. hi Skeeter, I guess when you already have some tall things, you can afford to put in some small ones - at least there are some focal points.

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  19. I always plant small, trees seem to settle in better and grow away faster if they are small. Any trees that I plant will outlive me, hopefully someone else will enjoy them in time to come and not just chop them down.

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    1. hopefully - I don't like to think too much about what will happen when I leave the garden. Most gardens in this neighbourhood seem to have been replaced by more house and hard paving.

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