Recently the website Garden Rant (of which I only occasionally frequent) published an article claiming that Right Plant, Right Place is rubbish advice.
I disagree. A lot. A whole lot in fact!
You see, for a new gardener- or even one wanting to push the boat out a bit and try something new, or one moving to a new climate or geographical area- this sort of advice is a touchstone for making smart decisions. Its rooted in science – plant the plants that want to live in the conditions you have- not the ones that are merely your favorites, are the prettiest, or are the ones your brother in Transylvania grows- and you will more than likely have success. Plant whatever you feel like and those plants will likely whimper and wallow, eventually dying of their own volition or frustrating you to the point of outright plant murder. Who wants that?
The author of the article posits that this is some kind of one-and-done advice wherein a perfect, static garden will be the end result of planting the right plant in the right place. Of course this isn’t true and it isn’t the goal of the phrase- I fear the author is bestowing powers onto it that it simply doesn’t have or claim to have. And of course, “place” means (as I understand it) your garden’s micro-climates, not its specific coordinates in your garden. What this phrase does claim, however, is that if you make educated choices about the plants you choose for your spaces, they will thrive and be healthy, happy, productive plants that you won’t have to faff over and baby into blooming and looking decent. For me, that is 75% of the battle when gardening! The plants themselves have to look good for the design to look good- no amount of theory, decor, or elaborate planning will make up for miserable, mopey plants.
Now, I can agree that there are two sorts of gardeners. Those that love the faffing, and those who want to avoid it at all costs. I am decidedly the latter. Perhaps the author is the former? I have no interest in constantly fertilizing, babying, cajoling, and pleading with plants to do what they ought to do naturally. This is why I think Right Plant, Right Place works so well. Once you understand what conditions you have, you can make smart choices by picking plants that are from similar conditions and will happily grow in the conditions you have. This eliminates faffing, reduces plant failures, and I believe leads to thriving and lower maintenance gardens.
Happy Plants = Happy Gardens = Happy Gardeners. That is literally the best equation ever.
Every garden evolves and not every plant will do exactly what you want- my garden is as much a case study of this than any other (see the great Anise Hyssop eradication– an example of too much of a happy plant). But if the plant is happy and healthy, there’s no fear in transplanting it or giving it away if you no longer like its place in the garden, its gone out of favor, or if it’s grown too big. Even better, one can divide the happy plant and spread it around. If the plant is struggling though, you can move it all you want but you’ll likely only hasten its death or eek out another paltry, under performing season or two- unless you can put it in a place that actually meets its needs. Which you would have done in the first place if you’d followed Right Plant, Right Place.
At the risk of sounding a mite too snarky, I’d rather take my advice from the likes of Beth Chatto and Monty Don (and Alan Titchmarsh, Adam Frost, Joe Swift, Proven Winners, University of Florida, Clemson University, and UMass, to name a few), all of which have doled out this very sentiment more than once and have beautiful gardens (and reputations) to back it up.
Right Plant, Right Place Forever.