Live and let die

Like most gardeners, “live and let live” was my mantra. Scarce water has mutated that to “live and let die so others can live.” Plants must pass my litmus tests of 1) Does this give sufficient value in return for water used? and 2) Would I buy that for there again? If not, I murmur Paul McCarthy’s…in this ever changing world in which we’re living / Makes you give in and cry” as I remove them.

Long-struggling plants are easy decisions; healthy ones that turn out not to suit needs or delight are hard. Early on, transplanting appealed to my Yankee frugality, but that didn’t fix the shortfall. So I jettison plants that don’t pass muster. Recent examples include:

  • Hyped as fast growers to cascade over stonewalls, 22 Portulacaria afra variegata prostrata were in fact miniature mounds. They went bye-bye yesterday.
  • When an oak tree fell 4 months ago, dozens of shade plants confronted the sun. Since our other shady areas were too distant and not on our water priority list, they were gifted to friends.
  • Twelve Hydrangea quercifolia the nursery marked as ‘Snow Queen’ were actually ‘Pee Wee’ dwarfs. During the year it took to figure out why they were such shrimps, they used 2,000 gallons. They’re gone.

The motivation for “mass murder” in Len Geiger’s Married to Plants is design or space. Mine is water. Pulling out non-performers and their irrigation proves to be a godsend for both conservation and garden beauty.


When you were young and your heart was an open book
You used to say live and let live
(you know you did, you know you did you know you did)
But if this ever changing world in which we’re living
Makes you give in and cry

Say live and let die

Paul McCartney