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How do I ensure the correct spacing between plants?

I'm about to plant up a west facing 3.5m x 2m border in the front garden. The soil has been thoroughly prepared by removing old, exhausted plants and digging in copious quantities of manure. However, I'm unsure of the distances to leave between plants and tend to plant too closely.

The soil is poor and sandy, which has dictated my choice of plants that will be OK in such conditions and have some tolerance of dry soil (I'll apply a composted bark mulch to mitigate against too much drying out), e.g., Perovskia Blue Spire, Gaura Lindheimeri, Calamagrostis Karl Foerster.  

I suppose the question of distancing depends on the effect I want to achieve and how quickly: I don't want the plants intertwining with one another too much, but would like them to touch a little. Some, such as Gaura, need space.

The RHS website advises that if a plant has a spread of 60cm, plant about 50cm apart, which would leave a little of the plants overlapping. This seems good advice, assuming the plant spreads to 60cm. 

How do other forum members judge this? Do you follow the RHS advice, or plant a little closer on the assumption a plant will only achieve the suggested spread in ideal conditions? I find this the most difficult part of creating a new border as a lot of time and energy (as well as expense!) has been put into the job so far, and I don't want to get things wrong at this stage. I'm definitely suffering from 'planter's block'!  


  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 11,286
    It sounds like you have poor and sandy soil that you've improved with with manure and will add composted bark later.

    The plants you list are quite happy on poor and sandy soil so long as it doesn't dry out too much.
    The Karl Foerster is very upright and relatively narrow.
    I have 8 planted across 2 fence panels (approx 12ft) and there's about 1ft between each mature plant, so they stand there like soldiers. I wanted space between each of them.
    The gaura will sprawl quite a bit (especially on manured soil) mine (The Bride) spread out about about 3 ft or so. They self seed, so you'll find lots of seedlings the following spring.
    Perovskia doesn't do well for me. I have about 8 Little Spire and they barely do anything sadly - dunno why..

    Billericay - Essex

    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • PianoplayerPianoplayer Posts: 624
    Hi - I suffer from this as well! Coupled with impatience...

    I have gone by the average `final size` given on various sites (as they don't always agree). In one area, this worked really well, and the plants are now just touching exactly as I wanted. In other areas, there is still quite a lot of space - this is because the plants have grown more slowly. This is where my impatience comes in and I start wishing I had planted them closer, although I know eventually things will be OK! So I think it depends on how slow-growing things are, and whether you have more patience than me. I am trying to resist planting loads of stuff in the gaps...

    The key things are a) right plant for the right place and b) do the experiment and see what happens. Good luck!
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