Taking the Clutter Out
Generally, planting in July and August is discouraged, unless you are prepared to nurture new plantings with very regular watering until cooler months set in. This summer may be the exception given that July has been exceptionally cool and wet for our region. However, if you wish to err on the side of safety, there are other actins you can take in your garden that will prepare it for the fall planting season.
In many established communities, one of the biggest issues on properties besides water management is overgrown plantings. So many homes were planted ten, or even twenty years ago with spruce, pines, rhododendrons, arborvitaes, with the idea that they might provide screening at low cost (which they did). Unless these screening plants are kept well heeled, they inevitably grow in stature and lose their effectiveness as screen plants. They become spindly trees next to, or between homes that detract from the architecture of the home and diminish the surrounding landscape by creating shade where it is not needed.
Many of us plant lovers cannot bear to take these trees and shrubs down for a number of reasons such as reluctance to kill a living thing, cluelessness as to what might take its place, concern about the expense of making change, etc. Let’s not confuse this with the removal of old wood trees by the way. That is a separate issue altogether. We are talking about ornamental plantings whose original intent was to enhance the architecture and/or provide eye level screening of unwanted people, places, or things.
Gardens are a lot like computers, they have limited space and storage capacity that can only be enhanced so much. The pleasure one derives from either is determined by how much use one gets out of them and how well they flow. They both are dependent on function as well as form. When a computer has too many bulky, rarely used programs running in the background and it becomes difficult to use on a daily basis, your choices range from removing some programs you no longer, or rarely use, adding in some memory, and/or reformatting the machine, or dump the machine, for a new one. Garden space really is not so different. You can sell the house off for one with a better garden space, dig everything up and replant it, remove large bulky plants that no longer serve their function, or add in materials hoping it will work better.
The truth is that when you have a blue spruce growing next to your house that is basically as tall as your house and has little or no foliage on one side because of its proximity to your home, it should probably go. It’s no longer fulfilling its original intent, it is in less than optimal health because there is insufficient space for it, and it is taking up space that could be planted much more fruitfully from both an aesthetic and ecological perspective. The same is true of that fifteen foot rhododendron, the pine tree overshadowing your home, dropping perpetual needles into and clogging your gutters, and so on. Hot months are great months to invoke Kali, Goddess of destruction. Take down those plants that just are not working. Then go creative, add in composted topsoil, prepare the ground for some more fruitful plants. Plants that enhance your architecture and perhaps are native, nurturing local flora and fauna, and whose size can be better managed in the long run.