Classic ... or Cliche?

Readers tell us what planting schemes they're tired of seeing.

Editors Note: Every Tuesday -- more or less -- we post a new Garden Question of the Week and invite you to respond. After a couple of weeks, we gather the best responses and put them here, in our regular Tuesday garden feature article. Wanna play?


This week's featured responses are to:

Classic ... or Cliche?

... in which we asked what overused plants and repetitious planting schemes you are tired of seeing. Here's our pick of the crop:


Cotoneaster and euonymus tangles in gardens where people don't want to do any maintenance are a classic cliche, at least in Toronto, as are the marigold-dusty miller-marigold parade down the sidewalk. In Canada another cliche is kale in your clay pot in the fall. Here in Tokyo, where we live now, bamboo is the cliche plant. It's the worst stuff; the leaves die off and rejuvenate constantly, and the mess means constant cleanup. Japanese prune the daylights out of everything all year long, so we expatriates who remember fondly the gloriously big and bushy mature trees of home note the inevitable; as soon as a plant starts to look like itself, out come the clippers!


I live in a rapidly developing area of Florida, where natural habitats are leve led and thousands of new homes are built. As the northerners move south it seems they all must have a palm tree, an orange tree, and a hibiscus bush with a large area of grass that in our climate stays green all year long. But in a place where the temps stay over 90 degrees for months on end we should think about landscaping with our native live oaks that provide much needed shade and native flowers that are drought tolerant. So forget the typical Florida landscape, leave the oranges in the groves and use a little imagination.


We have a lot of shade around our house, but the one plant that I refuse to use is the hostas. I'm sick of seeing them circling a tree. I'd rather use a variety of shade flowers, both perennial and annual, with a rock garden look for spring, summer, and fall enjoyment.

Donna / Washington

My big gripe is the landscaping philosophy of large front lawns, sidewalks cutting right across the front of the house leaving no space to plant anything of worth. With all the creative ideas for enclosing the front and using it as a courtyard or other private domain, I fail to understand the waste of a great deal of expensive real estate just for the neighbors' benefit. Big lawns are beautiful, but I hate to mow. Give me flowers and trees (and privacy) any day.

Heather Anne

I just love all plants and all landscaping. I figure if someone's taken the time to do anything, it's better than nothing, even if it is a cliche. I guess I'd have to banish NO landscaping ... one scraggly tree and patchy grass with no color or shrubs or other sign of interest in one's home.


Arborvitae! Way overdone! I think some people make the mistake of thinking a poplar is a poplar is a poplar, and so they have a single Lombardy poplar smack dab in the middle of their lawn, thinking it's a shade tree when they planted it. Also -- we need to be careful when planting flowers in front of brick houses -- sometimes the house CLASHES with the plants!! And -- planting annual flowers in place of shrubbery for foundations! OUCH! OK, I'm done!

Alice from S. Nevada

Palm trees. I am sick to death of palm trees. They use way too much water and give very little shade. They are usually so out of proportion to the rest of the landscape or the house that you see only the telephone pole trunk anyway. Beautifully cared-for natives like mesquite or acacia or even cottonwood don't get much consideration in our "component replacement" landscape mentality.


I can't deal with clashing colors. I know some people love to mix all sorts of colors together, but some things just don't work. For example, here in Norway someone had the brilliant idea of planting red, orange, and pink flowers together in the roundabouts. It literally makes me sick to look at these. Color coordination, people, it's important when you dress and it's important when you plant!


If you like it but it makes me yawn, that's my problem, not yours. Plant whatever makes you happy and don't worry about people who want to take care of everybody else's business!

Carolyne L. Reeves

My plant to banish would be the Bradford pear tree. The subdivision in which I live is peppered with them. Although the Bradford pear has a beautiful oval shape, it does not always stand up to the high winds and heavy storms prevalent in northern Alabama. Some under-used alternatives would be the sourwood tree or the golden chain tree. Both of these also have flowers, one in spring and one in summer, while the sourwood exhibits a wonderful color change as the weather cools and the golden chain tree throws dappled shade through its lacy leaves.