A Sophisticated Landscape Design Tool
Spellcheck highlights the word “interplanting”, but it is a legitimate planting technique that enriches your landscape design. I am adding it to my dictionary! When landscape designers incorporate interplanting in their plans, it is a sign they are experienced and willing to elevate to high-level garden design. Interplanting takes skill, complex thinking, and an intimate knowledge of plant material. The results can be elegant. It’s a sophisticated design tool to provide year-round interest or make a single garden area have continuous appeal.
Interplanting for successive bloom and foliage interest is a skill worth cultivating. If you learn the peak moments of growth and bloom for the plants in your yard, you can interplant to keep a garden spot performing aesthetically at its best for several months. Interplanting can be combined with thoughtful seasonal planning to stretch the usefulness of a landscape through all twelve months. By taking notes, recording observations, and using combinations that work in succession, you can build your interplanting aptitude.
The maintenance required for interplanting is high-level, too. Landscape crews must be able to nurture plants that are declining while encouraging new growth in successive plants growing in the same plant bed. I’ve seen miles of highway medians, through carefully timed mowings, progress through winter cover crop, spring wildflowers, to summer turf grasses, to autumn native plant mixes, changing color with the season and out-competing weeds. By deadheading, allowing last season’s growth to wither in place, and cutting back spent growth at just the right moment, you can make your own successful combinations. It is common for some plants to have two or even three flushes of bloom, with rests in between. With either careful maintenance or happy accident, the interplay of plant combinations can be developed into self-sustaining performances that repeat year after year. Planning for successful interplanting requires weekly observation and careful plant editing/clipping by someone with an artistic eye.
Skillful interplanting looks wonderful! Installing plants within and around other plants in a manner that allows both species to thrive without single dominance is tricky. You want your efforts to look relaxed and unintentional. If you put the wrong plants together, you end up with a weedy aesthetic instead of a look of abundance and cooperative growth. Some plant species play nice with others and some have more aggressive personalities. As a landscape artist, you can rely on good records and memories of serendipitous moments experienced in nature, when your combination of perfect sunlight, timing, and companions fell into harmony. Using your experiences and observations will help you become a better landscape designer. Beautification happens when the right plant choices are combined with the right installation and maintenance.
Here are some tips on how you can implement interplanting in your landscape.
• Plant shallow-rooted plants with deep rooted plants.
• Plant early season plants with late season plants.
• Plant with good companion/non-competing species.
• Plant shade plants with sun-loving plants.
• Plant heavy feeders next to plants that thrive on a little stress.
• Plant quick-life-span plants with slow-to-develop species.
• Plant different species that peak in succession.
• Plant and hand-clip to even the competition.
• Plant coarse-textured plants with fine-textured plants.
You can try different plant combinations in different areas of the garden, but it is difficult to keep every area of the landscape beautiful at all times. One area might peak seasonally in fall, while another may be an early spring delight. When one area peaks, the other fades. That’s what makes visiting exceptional gardens exciting all times of the year. Putting good combinations together to provide synergy for the peaks is part of good landscape design. Choreographing special moments in a landscape is complex, but rewarding.