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Burying Pots

So, I put some raised beds in in November 2019 and it wasn't until everything was in full bloom last year, that I realised the planting was wrong. Anyway, I've bought some shrubs but I'm still umming and ahhing about the positioning. I'm thinking of keeping them in pots and burying them in the beds initially to make it easier to move them around for the first few years whilst trying to get the layout right. I don't really want to keep digging things up and distressing the plants. Is this a workable plan?

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  • Could you do some research on heights, colours, sizes before moving anything?
  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 3,231
    The pots will restrict root growth and, if the summer is dry, there may be problems with access to water. I feel it would be worth trying to sort out your overall layout first. Try standing them on the border and having a good look. Take some pictures, move them around, look from upstairs. You should be able to work out what you like.
  • Take a metal tape measure and a friend onto your beds. Look up the size of each of your shrubs, width and height, after ten years. Step back from the border while your friend stands on it in the position you're thinking of. Have them hold the tape measure, extended to the size in question, first vertically and then horizontally, while you walk around a bit and see what the effect would be. Will it completely fill up the space, leaving no room for plants you desperately wanted? Will it block the view of a plant behind it? Will it succeed in blocking out that view you hoped to conceal? You're right to be cautious: a well positioned shrub can be a lasting and developing joy, while a badly placed one can break your heart if you have to take it out. Doing it this way gives you a sense of the dimensions you're dealing with.

    If it's getting the best effect by juxtaposing habit, leaf and flower in interesting ways, then you can get a long way by two separate stages, both of which are secondary to step 1 above. Find representative photos of your plants, and screenshot them. Put them all into a single folder or album on your computer. Move the images around. You can get a rough sense of what looks well with what, which will allow you to make the first pass, by positioning them on the soil in their pots. Again subject to the size considerations, you can still move them at that point to produce the best effect.

    I wouldn't recommend leaving them in pots--few will survive even one year of that treatment. You are better off planting them now, though for subsequent situations, the very best time of all to plant trees and shrubs is late September to mid-November. The soil is warm, and with a handful of bonemeal you can encourage them to put down roots before the frosts, which will help a lot in reducing the need for extra water the following summer while they are establishing.
  • Could you do some research on heights, colours, sizes before moving anything?
    Research already done and the shrubs bought. I've already set out a plan for what's going where but a plan is one thing, what it looks like in practice is another as I've discovered in the past.

    Posy said:
    The pots will restrict root growth and, if the summer is dry, there may be problems with access to water. I feel it would be worth trying to sort out your overall layout first. Try standing them on the border and having a good look. Take some pictures, move them around, look from upstairs. You should be able to work out what you like.
    That is of course my worry. I did try several different arrangements before planting (end of November due to waiting for trees, plants were bought earlier in the year) what I currently have and it looked great from every angle but once everything was in its full bloom again it just didn't look right. The biggest problem was that one side was very diverse in terms of shape, size and texture whilst the other was all crocosmias, hesperanths and switchgrass. The amount of time I spent arranging and rearranging you'd have thought it'd have been obvious from the start but it wasn't 🤷‍♀️

    Take a metal tape measure and a friend onto your beds. Look up the size of each of your shrubs, width and height, after ten years. Step back from the border while your friend stands on it in the position you're thinking of. Have them hold the tape measure, extended to the size in question, first vertically and then horizontally, while you walk around a bit and see what the effect would be. Will it completely fill up the space, leaving no room for plants you desperately wanted? Will it block the view of a plant behind it? Will it succeed in blocking out that view you hoped to conceal? You're right to be cautious: a well positioned shrub can be a lasting and developing joy, while a badly placed one can break your heart if you have to take it out. Doing it this way gives you a sense of the dimensions you're dealing with.

    If it's getting the best effect by juxtaposing habit, leaf and flower in interesting ways, then you can get a long way by two separate stages, both of which are secondary to step 1 above. Find representative photos of your plants, and screenshot them. Put them all into a single folder or album on your computer. Move the images around. You can get a rough sense of what looks well with what, which will allow you to make the first pass, by positioning them on the soil in their pots. Again subject to the size considerations, you can still move them at that point to produce the best effect.

    I wouldn't recommend leaving them in pots--few will survive even one year of that treatment. You are better off planting them now, though for subsequent situations, the very best time of all to plant trees and shrubs is late September to mid-November. The soil is warm, and with a handful of bonemeal you can encourage them to put down roots before the frosts, which will help a lot in reducing the need for extra water the following summer while they are establishing.

    With the exception of a couple, the shrubs I've bought have a maximum growth potential of approximately 1.5 metres height although the width varies. The plan is to prune as a means to maintain size although I suspect that being in raised beds (open bottomed) will have an effect which only time will tell. There were a couple of issues that became obvious last summer, firstly that there was diversity of shape, size and texture in one bed with virtually none in the other and secondly, because, not counting the trees, everything was perennials. There was too much fence and not enough foliage to cover it. I love the plants I bought but some of them just don't work. Those ones I shall be giving away as I don't want them to go to waste, some of the taller keepers will be going back in the raised beds and the lower growing ones will be in pots as I replaced the lawn with gravel last year. The look I am going for is woodland courtyard (not easy with a south facing garden) and the pots will serve as a way to narrow the space between the beds and soften the corners. I think the basic issue was that I made the rookie mistake when overhauling a garden of getting in plants I like rather than thinking about the overall look.

    The shrubs I've bought are very diverse in leaf shape, texture and flower and the layout I've currently got scribbled down is based upon those elements. When I planted the existing perennials, I arranged and rearranged them several times whilst still in their pots and everything looked great from every angle. Why that didn't translate the next summer after they'd been planted, I don't know. 
  • Why that didn't translate the next summer after they'd been planted, I don't know. 
    Welcome to the wonderful world of garden design... where your materials have a mind of their own...

    I started with my small garden ten years ago in the belief I could continue a style of gardening I'd liked previously and have flowering perennials and roses... The roses got too big or got diseased because the garden has walls. The perennials were eaten to the ground by molluscs year after year. Now, I have hellebores, daphnes, arums, a few extremely tough geraniums, hydrangeas and pulmonarias, agapanthus, loads of snowdrops, and a couple of survivor old roses. But I'm very pleased with the result. It looks just right now, and everything is healthy. I became less afraid to get rid of things that were languishing.

    The garden will impose its own microclimate on you, but you won't know what it is in advance; and no matter how you try, you may find some things you'd dearly love to grow will have other ideas. So a lot of it will be by trial and error. Don't feel too bad about the things you're getting rid of, as your neighbours and friends will love you for it and will offer you bits of their plants in return, some of which will thrive and some won't. You will probably change your mind a lot about what looks good with what, and just when you think you have it nailed, a storm or a cold snap will mess up your picture, your favourite shrub will die, or some other unforeseen event will happen. Gardens never stand still. I think one secret is to be quite ruthless and keep only things that do well and look right (with a fair trial of about 3 years, or longer for shrubs). 
  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 3,231
    So you have already learned a number of valuable lessons. Why not make a list of the features you want. As you try out your arrangements,  check they meet your list. Include form, colour, texture,  blooming time, seasonal changes as well as height and spread. 
  • K67K67 Leicestershire Posts: 2,507
    I rather enjoy rearranging my borders. Year 3 in this brand new garden and a lot of things have been moved, especially a shrub that grew  just too wide and got rid of a couple that weren't as good as expected. 
     In the first 2 or 3 seasons moving anything is fine trees, shrubs, clematis, roses etc but after that would only move or divide perennials,  unless its really needed and i dont mind if it doesn't survive.
    I hope I have the layout right now!
  •  Don't feel too bad about the things you're getting rid of, as your neighbours and friends will love you for it and will offer you bits of their plants in return, some of which will thrive and some won't. You will probably change your mind a lot about what looks good with what, and just when you think you have it nailed, a storm or a cold snap will mess up your picture, your favourite shrub will die, or some other unforeseen event will happen. Gardens never stand still. I think one secret is to be quite ruthless and keep only things that do well and look right (with a fair trial of about 3 years, or longer for shrubs). 
    I heard my neighbours out in the garden this afternoon getting started with planting. Once everything is up I'll see if they want anything. I have some heucheras which would work really well as the back of their garden has even more shade than mine. I know gardening is a ruthless business but I have a really hard time getting rid of things.

    Posy said:
    So you have already learned a number of valuable lessons. Why not make a list of the features you want. As you try out your arrangements,  check they meet your list. Include form, colour, texture,  blooming time, seasonal changes as well as height and spread. 
    Previously, I had a lawn with one bed at the bottom of the garden that was in shade. All I did with that was stick things in the ground and hoped for the best which worked out really well. The only time I had a problem was when I had an outbreak of heuchera rust which ravaged the lot. A proper garden design is a whole other ball game.

    K67 said:
     In the first 2 or 3 seasons moving anything is fine trees, shrubs, clematis, roses etc but after that would only move or divide perennials,  unless its really needed and i dont mind if it doesn't survive.
    I hope I have the layout right now!

    I'm OK with moving perennials around as well, they're easily replaced!
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