I recently listened to a radio program about human-centered design. One of the speakers mentioned one of the important factors of good design is embracing constraints. The way he said that sounded as if everybody knew that having constraints fuels creativity and gives focus in to the design process. And I thought:"Well, how interesting. Maybe it was smart of me to take my bike to the plant sale, knowing full well that I had pretty much enough plants. " (Though I did end up with 3 1-gallon plants and 2 4-inch pot. 2 of the 1-gallon plants carpooled with a friend, and I picked them up from her house by bike. )
But I digress. Because I don't really want to look a simple truth in the eye. Like all gardeners, I try plants in locations where they'll most likely not be so happy. Zone pushing, it is commonly known. And then things don't work out so great.
Yes, this fern suffered partly because the irrigation was off for 3 weeks this summer. But I also think it might be happier in a different spot. Right now, it gets bright shade all day, and then 1-2 hours of late afternoon sun. Not a great combination, but I think some Heuchera or even monkey flowers might be happier.
Thinking about how to embrace constraints, I started working on the design of the small area near the benches where two non-native fuchsias have pretty much perished in the 3-week irrigation failure drought this summer. Here's what we have right now:
To the left of that, the first of the two very overgrown Heuchera (beautiful rose/almost white blossoms in spring). The photo below is Heuchera maxima, and the plants I have in that bed are Heuchera 'Wendy' and Heuchera 'Canyon Delight', but you get the idea.
To the left of that, the two almost dearly departed, very woody fuchsias, followed by more Heuchera and Clivia. Behind the fuchsias, I also planted some native Iris, but they have not exactly taken off, we'll see whether they make it.
What were my constraints? I wanted plants that needed less water than the fuchsias and that tolerated shade (and an hour or so of sun, shining through the redwoods). I wanted something blooming for a month or more. I wanted wildlife friendly plants. Here's my plan:
Very fortunately, Annie's Annuals had them on sale last week so I mail-ordered three. They arrived 2 days later, beautiful large plants that I immediately transplanted from their 4-inch pots to 1 gallon pots. They are now waiting for rain, I'd need a pickax to get holes into the clay right now.
The Heuchera have been thinned, and I'll find other locations for the babies, which I'm propagating. In place of the Fuchsia, I've planned on 2 M. puniceus and a Rhamnus crocea ilicifolia (Redberry; Photo from Las Pillitas).
This plant might be an unusual choice, and it is indeed an accident. My garden designer had asked me whether I'd like for her to get one for me, she was visiting a nursery where they had a few. "It will be great in the redwood habitat," she said "Arching branches to finally replace the cotoneaster you took out." I quickly looked the plant up and liked the pictures. Shiny leaves, red berries, looked like a nice fit. Then the plant arrived, and I found that the leaves are maybe 1/8 of an inch. Tiny. And the berries will be even tinier. Furthermore, this plant was not arching, and the nursery had warned that it grows very very slowly. I then decided that I'd be happier to have that plant close by, near the sitting area, and plant something else that really is arching and faster growing in the redwood habitat.
Right now, I'm thinking of Ribes viburnifolium (evergreen current) or Sympocarpus mollis (trailing snowberry). And who knows, I might come up with another plant or two that meets my constraints. But I'm hoping that I'm learning my lesson and find places where the plants will be happy and reward me with blossoms and berries.