Garden Design Update: Planting vs. Plopping

August Dreams Garden border, newly planted
We were sitting at my kitchen table a few weeks ago, the garden designer, the hort-enabler and I, going over the plant lists for the groundcover garden, the high summer garden, and the shrub border.

After reviewing and approving the list of plants for the high summer garden, which I’ve dubbed “August Dreams Gardens”, I casually mentioned that maybe I would dig up the ditch lilies on the side of the house and move them to that garden.

In a near instantaneous fashion with no hand signals, eye contact, or other means of communicating between them, they both said “No” almost immediately.

I guess I will leave those ditch lilies where they are or look for another place to put them.

Some people are going to hear that story and suggest I’ve lost my mind. Why would I let anyone tell me what to do in my own garden? After all it’s my garden, I can plant what I want where I want.


But I’m not going to plant those ditch lilies there, even though I can.


Because I want to stick with the design as is, at least for a while.

Plus there are other garden borders were I can plop plants in where I want to.

That’s right. Plop them. As in plop them in wherever there seems to be a bare spot, where it looks like they won’t be taller than the plants behind them, or much taller, and won’t crowd out the plants around them. Just plop them right there.

That’s what I did before. Yes, you end up with a garden that way. And it might even be, and probably is, quite pretty to look at.

But is it the best that it can be?

With a garden design, plants are planted to complement one another, with thought given to when they will bloom, how tall and wide they will get, and how they will generally fit together.

Will I never plant another thing in my “August Dreams Garden” border?

Not likely over the long haul, but I will probably think twice before I do and try to remember what kind of garden it is trying to be when I eventually can't resist adding something.

Let me answer one other question about the garden design and hiring a garden designer that has been nagging/bugging/perplexing people who know me.

“Carol, you have a degree in horticulture. Why did you hire a garden designer?”

Yes, I have a degree in horticulture, which I earned 30 years ago this spring. (Wow, was it really 30 years ago? Seriously? 30 years? Can that be true? I am now in shock that it has really been that long ago.)

On my diploma it says “Horticulture Production” which means I focused in on courses about growing plants like vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubs, mostly in efficient rows.

In rows.

I am very good at planting in rows.

I am not so good about design, using for years the plopping method.

No more plopping, no more rows, at least not in the August Dreams Gardens border.

At least not for now.


  1. What a concept, no plopping! May you have the strength of will to keep to the design. It will be beautiful, I can't wait to see it this August, and many more Augusts to come. :-)

  2. I don't like having a garden that's not in a constant state of editing and change. For me, it would be like visiting a botanical garden where you have a pretty picture before you but no hand in changing it and helping it evolve. Sure, you need to plan, but plopping can bring about some unexpected surprises.

  3. I know exactly what you mean! I am a real "plopper" and I can see my designer cringe sometimes when she visits and sees my "plops". But i' m able to see where it does not work and out they come and get plopped in in the areas designated for my plopping :)

  4. I've done a lot of plopping over the years and I'm sure I'll do a lot in the years to come. I AM trying to be more mindful of my choices, though.

  5. I can totally see where you're coming from!

    My latest foray into garden design was to take a summer course at the Landscape Institute of Harvard, which required several all-night sessions of painstaking landscape model assembly as per each design.

    Did this curb my urge to "plop" plants? Not at all! I'm convinced it's just bound to happen every so often to those of us who garden with gusto.

  6. Carol, August is going to be such fun and the garden will look good way before that, too. Can't want to see it. Btw, my entire gardening experience has involved plopping! I am trying to move away from impulse buying which leads to more plopping. We can do it! gail PS If I may be so bold~run away from those ditch lilies...They will attempt to take over the entire bed! There's no getting rid of them when they do.

  7. Yeap.. design and stick to it... but we have to have strength to wait until the plants mature.

  8. I confess I am a plopper! I am praying for a fantastic garden designer to look on pity at my attempts at gardening and lend a very inexpensive hand!

  9. I understand the concept that design can look better than plopping. But I garden for mental and physical health and as a creative outlet. I need to be able to do what I want. Maybe if I had a larger garden I could offer some up to 'design' but I need what space I have to maintain my tenuous grasp on mental stability.

  10. Can I just say a word for the ploppers of this world? We plop because we love, we love so many plants, far more than is reasonable or rational. Surprisingly often the plopping ends up looking quite nice, but I do look forward to the designed dreams of August :)

  11. This is very kind of you to not plop until your garden gate has closed behind the designers and make sure their bill says paid in full. They might charge you extra if they have to look at some plopping before its time. tee hee..

  12. I think there is always a space that should be plopped...and I think Nature uses the plop method..that said there are also garden spaces we need to design more...of course plopping without any planning can lead to issues so I try to do some informed plopping and then designing where needed...I am tending to design more than plop these days

  13. So glad your August Dreams garden border was a well-thought-out plan. I can't wait to see it when it matures. I'm a little ADD and sometimes buy plants without knowing where I'll plant them. My husband finally said, "no more plants unless you know where you'll plant them!" I've tried to have a plan ever since.

  14. I am a plopper by nature. I would love to have the ability to design, I only know the colors I want to see and have long-lived blooms and fab foliage to keep interest. My sister calls me a specimen gardener since I tend to only get one plant of one type. I think all types need love, so I try one of everything. Except my hyssop/agastache...many many of each type since I love the fragrance and the bees and hummingbirds adore them.

  15. Lisa's comment cracked me up - nobody wants to pay a "plopping surcharge"!
    Rules like that would make me nuts, Carol, but your designer might be right about the ditch lilies... isn't August a little late for the peak bloom of Hemerocallis fulva in Indiana? Can't you leave them where they are and build a "Snores of July" garden around them?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  16. I'm a major "plopper", while my husband has a degree in horticulture - landscape design... so as you can imagine it creates an interesting dynamic! I love "plopping" things in my mixed perennial border, but I think a themed garden would be harder to do that in unless it is just the right plant/spot. Looks like a beautiful project! Can't wait till the august update.

  17. I completely understand all that Carol, and I speak as someone with a distinct tendency to "plopping". I've never employed a garden designer, but the borders I am most happy with are the ones that I took the trouble to step back and consider carefully, and plan for all seasons. My "plopping" sometimes works really well too, but sometimes just looks, well, plopped! I look forward to seeing your August Dreams Garden emerge.

  18. taking a course in garden design sounds like something i should probably look into :) i have a terrible habit of putting things in without thinking about their mature size so am constantly planting things and digging them back up!


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