Purge the garden

Plant removal is a savvy, albeit unorthodox, sustainability move. Some plants make you smile, and some bestow privacy or structure. Others take resources week in and week out, giving little in return.

We have too little water for competing needs. That imbalance is analogous to too little income for clashing expenses, or too few hours in the day for conflicting demands. A budget helps you manage money wisely, and a schedule helps you divvy up time judiciously. Similarly, a purge helps you apportion water prudently.

To purge the garden is to:

  • Nurture the plants you love, need, or want
  • Remove ailing, unappealing, or regrettable plants
  • Stop the water flow where plants are removed

A systematic approach makes it easier to see your garden with fresh eyes, counter any psychological barriers, and gain the courage to let go. To begin, ask yourself these seven questions for each plant:

  1. Does it make you happy? Every plant has a season to shine, and if it has no allure even then, axe it.
  2. Is it happy? When a plant looks miserable or defeated, care for it. If it doesn’t heal, part ways.
  3. Do you need it? If a plant has no purpose, either aesthetic or functional, lose it.
  4. Does it take disproportionate resources? If it does and it’s not a favorite, consider scrapping it.
  5. Do you prune often to prevent overcrowding? When irrigated plants jam together, give some up.
  6. Have you already replaced it twice? If so, move on. See Pack it in when plants die for more details.
  7. Does it detract from others? When it diminishes nearby stars, say goodbye.

Consider each plant’s health, charm, role, and suitability. If it passes muster, count your blessings and keep it. If not, take a tip from cleaning consultant Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and thank it for its service. Then let it go. Depending on existing conditions, you’ll remove a little (<10%) to a lot (>25%) of plant material with startling qualitative and quantitative outcomes.

You’ll delight in your garden’s revitalization. The prodigious amount of water saved will make you giddy, and you’ll rejoice as maintenance lessens with fewer plants. Your euphoria after jettisoned plants no longer guzzle precious resources or cast gloom over nearby beauties will astound you, and you’ll wonder why you never did this before.

Hmmm, maybe this could be a new book: The Game-Changing Magic of Purging Your Garden: Tips and Techniques to Enhance its Beauty and Save the Planet.

5 thoughts on “Purge the garden

  1. […] While these 2 varieties were winners, my first 2 choices, ‘Fireburst’ and ‘Inferno’, did not perform. I initially replaced dead ‘Fireburst,’ and when more died and those that lived had small and faded leaves, I switched to ‘Marble Queen’ there. After 2 years with no growth of my ‘Inferno,’ I practiced what I preach and purged. […]


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