JUST LIKE ANIMALS, PLANTS ARE SO CUTE WHEN THEY’RE YOUNG
Adorable when young. Ferocious when mature. Just like some junipers I know.
Question from customer at garden center:
“How big does this plant get?”
Response from salesperson:
“How big do you want it to get?”
Ok, this may not have actually been overheard but I’m sure we’ve all been there. Where? Perhaps regretting a plant decision (or planting location) a few years down the road. When it comes to plants for a garden, these usually come in about five general categories: trees, shrubs, groundcovers, grasses and perennials. I’m at that point in my life where I’m no longer concerned with how tall or large a tree will ultimately get (at least in my garden. For my younger clients, I absolutely take this into consideration).
For groundcovers, grasses, and perennials, mature size is rarely an issue. So, what does that leave? Yep! Shrubs. Most of us are pretty astute to doing our research with regard to a plant’s cultural needs. Sun vs. shade, wet vs. dry, clay vs sandy loam. Check, check, check. But when it comes to size at maturity, here is where some of us may need some help.
Maybe it’s the thrill of getting a steal of a deal off the sale shelf. Or it could be our impatience in waiting for a plant to grow. We’ve all heard the phrase “sleep, creep, leap”. This refers to a plant sleeping its first year in the ground, then creeping during year two, and finally leaping in year three.
If there is one species I would use as an example of being a “baby tiger” (when they’re young they’re adorable but when they’re mature they will gobble you or your house or sidewalk up!) it would be the lowly, cheap, and altogether unexciting juniper. The most common misplacement for this shrub is at the end of the driveway. What begins as a couple cute tigers marking the entry to the property soon transforms into a behemoth of a barricade and outright dangerous planting as these guys block sightlines as one backs out into the street. If you spot this around your neighborhood you may want to warn your kids to be extra careful near Mr. McBeavie’s drive.
The next very noticeable place you may observe baby tigers gone wild is along many front foundations. This is a tricky one as most people (me included) are not fond of change, including their foundational planting. We all walk a tight rope here in trying not to prune our tigers into little meatballs but if these plantings aren’t corralled in some way you may say “curb appeal? What curb appeal? I can’t even see the house!
Not sure where the lesson is going here so I’ll end by saying just pay attention to the tags when choosing plants for your garden. I’ll bet most listed mature sizes are pretty accurate. The challenge then comes from having the patience to not overplant or oversize your plant selection. Remember, that cute little purr can become a man-eating roar in no time.