I was shopping at a Trader Joe’s recently for some groceries. I say groceries, but I really mean affordable bottles of wine. While checking out, the cashier asked to see my ID (haven’t been under 21 in a long time so I’ll take that as a compliment thank you very much). Beside the cheap booze, I like shopping at Trader Joe’s because the staff is extremely friendly. This employee was no different, though a bit chattier than most as she suddenly exclaimed, “Oh! You’re a Leo!” Yes, that’s right, my zodiac sign is Leo. My strengths: creativity, humor, generosity. My weaknesses (if you believe everything you read on the internet): stubbornness (my husband would agree with this), a tendency towards extravagance (I do have a Tricolor Beech on order for my yard), and an extreme sense of self-worth that can tend towards arrogance (oh, like you’re so perfect).
Then my cashier continued to chit chat, complimented my wedding ring, and said, “Leos should never marry a Scorpio”. I paused a moment before replying, “Actually, my husband is a Scorpio”. She seemed unfazed by my revelation, no doubt she cards countless people destined for divorce.
Rest assured, my husband and I have a strong relationship and plan to be together for the rest of our lives, zodiac compatibility be damned. We make it work. But now I’ve gotten to thinking as I complete spring design projects for clients- forget marriage, most people are less than perfect when it comes to landscape compatibility. I’ve seen it all folks. Apple Serviceberries that have been sheared into unnatural round balls, in attempt to establish control. Hedges so overgrown and neglected that they cover the windows. Spring is an especially tricky time when making plant selections. We’ve been cooped up so long that when we finally see a bit of green, we go a little crazy and are likely to bring home any attractive plant we see at the garden center.
This landscape compatibility test is more of a service announcement. To avoid tethering yourself to a gardening mistake, please complete the following very precise (and unscientific) landscape compatibility test to determine if you and your landscape are a good match.
Question 1: When you were a child, was your dream pet a (choose one)
A. A goldfish
B. A cat
C. A dog
D. A pretty, pretty pony
Question 2: How many botanical gardens have you voluntarily visited?
A. What is a botanical garden?
D. As many as possible, I also enjoy membership perks at one of them.
Question 3: Which description best describes your personality?
B. I try not to sweat the small stuff.
C. I like to learn new things and seek excitement and adventure, in moderation.
D. Everything has its place and I seek to create order and organization in my environment.
Question 4: What landscaping style do you most admire?
A. The lawn
B. Not sure what I just saw, but it was very pretty.
C. Full and lush. Give me an English cottage garden any day.
D. Formal and tidy. Like a toddler with a plate of food, there should be space between the plants.
Question 5: How much time do you like to spend working in the yard? [Notice I say “working”. Drinking on the patio doesn’t count.]
A. The yard? Oh, that’s the thing I pass while bringing groceries into the house.
B. Maybe one weekend a month, depending on if the weather is nice.
C. A couple hours per week.
D. As much time as possible… I once wore a head lamp to plant my tulips in fall.
Now total up how many of each letter you circled the most.
“It’s not laziness, you would just rather be doing something else than pruning a shrub”
Perhaps condo living would be best for you. Or maybe you are lucky enough to afford a landscaper to take care of your yard. If not, maybe you should just stick with lawn. Yes, you have to mow it once a week, but at least you will be getting your steps in. But you are going to need some shade in the yard. Kentucky Coffeetrees are about as low maintenance as you can get. They grow slow and have no notable disease or pest problems.
“You have yard envy coupled with feelings of inadequacy”
You can certainly appreciate a nice landscape when you see it, but you don’t have time and/or skills to make it happen. There is no such thing as a “no maintenance” landscape, but you want as close as you can get, with the best results. You’ll want to stick with mostly shrubs that don’t require a lot of pruning, like Tor Spirea, Blue Forest Creeping Junipers, and Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea. An Apple Serviceberry will provide four season interest: white spring flowers, fruit for birds in summer, brilliant fall color, and elegant structure in winter.
“You will jump in the deep end of the pool, as long as you have a floaty device and a cocktail”
You view your yard as a fun challenge, though don’t want to be a slave to it. You’ve had the occasional impulse plant purchase, but for the most part you want reliable, easy to care for plants, that also provide the most impact. Boxwood, Annabelle Hydrangea, Summer Peek-a-Boo™ Ornamental Onion, Montrose White Calamint, Salvia, and Little Goldstar Rudbeckia are your go-to mix (depending on sun exposure). Native plants and cultivars would be a welcome addition to your yard, too. Freeman Maples like Autumn Blaze® will quickly grow to give you shade and the neighbors will be impressed with the consistent fall color.
“You’re my hero”
You have a commitment to the landscape that is most admirable and many hope, but fail, to achieve. You walk out the door with Felco Ergonomic hand pruners, ready to wage war on any shrub that has over stepped its boundaries. Rabbits scurry in fear when your shadow crosses the yard. You make your own special blend of compost. Finicky, high maintenance plants are no match for you. You have my blessing to include Japanese Maples, Rhododendrons, Clethras, Coral Bells, and Oriental Lilies in your garden. Go big or go home is your motto, so go ahead and install a majestic Beech Tree.
If this article has shed some cold harsh reality on your gardening fantasy, I do apologize.
So I shall leave you with a joke.
“How did the tree meet her husband?”
“She swiped right on Timber!”
I’m here all season folks! Try the veal!