A GROWING CONCERN: Right plant/Right spot

AS WE BEGIN our trek through December and into the new year, we enter the best time of year to plant.

The weather is cool and damp and Mother Nature will water in any botanical you have planted — free for the next five months.

The sun is now low in the sky as is the mercury in the thermometer.

This means that little plant stress will occur in newly transplanted items or new plant purchases.

So the weather is ideal now for planting.

However, the events, protests and concerns this last week revolving around the removal of the large sequoia prompted me to remind everyone about plant selection.

If you are getting ready to plant anything, adhere to the absolute virtue and tenet of right plant/right spot.

Making the choice

I have always mused in my pruning classes that the best pruning is to get the right plant placed for the spatial restraints of the area.

If you do not, then as we saw this last week at Lions Park, the prune will be real easy — just one cut at the base and “Timber.”

The greatest problem with selecting the wrong plant for the area is both the time lost and the emotional attachment to the “dead plant walking.”

We get vested in our botanical wonders, having planted them ourselves.

Then we nurture and water them through their formative years, taking photos and gaining memories.

But alas, the plant has been poorly selected: Growing too big, needing more light or better soil, clogging the septic system, cracking the driveway or damaging the foundation, so then eventually, down it must go.

But we loved this plant, putting the problem off until it was self-evident, and if we are lucky enough not to have occurred actual damage — we lost time, years and years of valuable time that now a new small plant must try to make up.

The most common problem I see with the wrong plant in the wrong spot is precisely the sequoia’s issue.

As it matures, it’s just way too big.

It grows into the side of the house; it blocks the mountain view or impedes the picture window; it covers the driveway or sidewalk and blocks out all the light for the garden.

And I understand.

When that plant was small, in it’s nursery container it looked so cute there in the corner of the house or close by the arbor; but now it is doing its “Jack and the Beanstalk” imitation and no golden goose is at the end of its life cycle.

Thinking ahead

So what to do?

Always, always, always read the label and find out the mature size.

Remember too, here on the Peninsula with our perfect weather things grow at 110 percent. So if it says 18- to 20-feet tall, then think and plan on a 22-foot tall plant.

Again, that was the sequoia’s problem.

That tree will mature in well over 300 years at an astonishing height of 300 feet and have a canopy diameter of over 80 feet.

A mature giant sequoia will have an estimated volume of up to 52,000 cubic feet.

Holy smokes, Batman.

So as we enter the best time of the year to plant or transplant plants in the wrong spot that need to be moved, look very carefully at your own yard.

Only put 4-foot high bushes in front of the 52-inch window.

Get dwarf apple trees so a small 6-foot ladder is good enough for harvesting.

Measure how tall a tree must be to block out the sun from your garden and then plant one whose height will not exceed that.

But please, please, please, get the right plant for the right spot or the community might become concerned about a plant that should never had been there.

P.S. I really do love trees.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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