True gardeners always find maintaining their gardens rewarding. They get a great sense of accomplishment and pride as the garden matures into the vision they carry in their heads. Other people have their own dream gardens in mind but find garden maintenance an unavoidable chore. On top of the physical labor and time involved in maintaining a garden, there is also the complication of having to decide how to best manage their little slice of paradise. For example, when does one decide that a planting bed is past its prime and needs a make-over or when is it time to admit that a hedge is not providing the privacy you want and replace it with another plant. These types of questions are what I routinely face when a client makes an appointment for a garden “clean-up” but is really looking for more. What they are looking for is to update the garden, which usually requires what is called “infill planting’.
After removing dead and dying plants, infill planting is on top of the list for refreshing a garden. Infill planting can be as simple as adding a few one-gallon plants to freshen up a flower borders or as complicated as adding size trees to strengthen the structure of the garden. Regardless of what the intensions are, careful planning is important in choosing the correct plant material for the infill planting.
I recently did an update to a well-established garden in drastic need of attention, including infill planting. The overall “bones” of the garden were good and for the most part the trees and large shrubs were in good health. It was the smaller plant material, perennials and ground covers in the flower borders, which were failing.
Conducting a careful walk through the garden, with pen and pad, to note which plants in the flower border were doing well and which were failing was the first thing to do. When coming across a plant that is failing, it is important to understand why it is not thriving. Is it because it is the wrong plant in the wrong spot, has it been attacked by a garden pest, is it being abused by the family dog or cat, is the irrigation inadequate or is it just an old plant that has given its all and is past its prime? The answer to these observations is important when deciding what new plant material to install and creating a succesful infill planting scheme. This shoulf be done before visiting the plant nursery.
Often the problem is not poor plant health but rather a plant becoming too aggressive in the flower border. Then one must decide if it is best to remove the beast or invest time in taming the offender. Hopefully it is just a matter of judiciously cutting back a few branches or vines off the plant material.
Equally important, when doing infill planting is replacing those plants that are not in keeping with the“garden theme”. All gardeners are victims to impulse shopping at the plant nursery. When an exotic or rare plant is in bloom at the plant nursery, it is tempting to find a place for it in our own flower borders. Most of the time this new plant material fits appropriately with the established garden but sometimes we have to admit a mistake was made.
Once a thorough garden assessment has been completed and all questions answered then an infill plant list can be created. The goal of the new infill planting is to complement the existing plant material in the flower border, yet provide new life and vigor to the garden.