Gardening is a Tough Business

I stopped being sentimental about plants three decades ago when I started working in horticulture for a living, but I sympathize with those who hate pulling plants out of the garden. Gardeners are, after all, growers and nurturers.
Sometimes, however, a plant has to go. Whether it’s sending shoots metres away from where it was originally planted, blooms and dies while you’re at work or always looks like it’s going to come up big and then fades away (like the Toronto Maple Leafs every March), some plants just don’t earn their keep.
Summer is a good time for making the hard choices and for removing plants that don’t perform. As a bonus you’ll have room for more plants in the fall. Take a walk around your garden with a set of standards in mind and see if some of your plants really deserve the space they occupy. Ask yourself these questions.
Some plants truly are territorial and the longer you put up with them the more territory they’ll occupy. Isn’t it time to do something about it? Rip up, dig out or spray off the thugs and resolve to never plant them again.
Does a plant get mildew every year and struggle through until fall, but look healthy again the following spring, only to succumb again? What are you waiting for? Get the shovel.
Is the plant a prima donna? Does it need watering three times a day when the temperatures soar? Is it constantly being chewed on by some unseen insect, while every other plant around it is left alone? Gardening is a team sport, there’s no room for “special players.”
The blooms are spectacular, but they last for a day and a half and that’s it for the entire year. What is it doing for you and the garden the other 363 and a half days? I think you know the answer.
How many times have you had to prune a plant in a growing season? It keeps growing into everything else around it and you keep cutting it back. Perhaps it’s time to consider a dwarf version of the same plant or something entirely different, and smaller.
Did the plant look much more alluring in the garden centre when the light caught it just right, when the cute salesperson waxed so eloquently about its virtues or when it was on sale? Is this the same plant that is now just plain ugly? What was I thinking?
Why did this plant bloom its head off for months after I planted it and I haven’t seen a flower three years on? Is the wait worth it? Not likely.
Every garden is different and every gardener has different standards and expectations. That’s what makes your garden and my garden so unique. But the plants have to perform, there’s only a bit of room for sentimentality. If you’re honest about the answers to the above questions you might be doing some “thinning” after you read this column. Take heart, be strong.

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