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My home siding project is finally done. A lot of my perennials took a beating from the crew’s repeated trampling. But plants have a way of enduring, overcoming adversity, and making a new start. So, I’ll wait and hope to see my friends return.

In the meantime, I must think and dig.

For me, each spring prep involves a lot of digging. When it comes to planting, most gardeners don’t get it right the first time, nor maybe even the second time. Plants don’t always work just right where they’re first planted. Perhaps you misread the sun/shade exposure—you thought that spot was mostly in the shade, but you were a little tipsy the day you planted that sun-loving perennial. Now it must be moved. Or, you planted something directly in front of a sprinkler head, ensuring that the plants in the balcony were destined for a dry, brittle death.

Don’t be afraid to admit you made a mistake! It’s highly unlikely people will drive by, notice your peony is in a different spot, and make a comment about your gardening skills in the neighborhood newsletter. The best thing to do is get out there with a sense of confident purposefulness and start to dig.

But wait! First, think strategically.

Evaluate the exposure needs of the plant you want to move. Is it a plant that loves the sun or shade or a mix? Keep this in mind:

  • Full sun means at least 6 hours of sun a day. Vegetables need more. But keep in mind that some plants can’t take the heat of afternoon sun, so let them have 6 hours of morning sun.
  • Partial sun means that the plant likes more sun than shade—about 3-6 hours—and can stand the heat. The people over at The Spruce tell us that we may have to experiment with our plants because this is a tricky category. If the plant’s leaves are starting to turn a crispy brown, you know it can’t last in that spot. (See, even the experts know that digging is a big part of gardening!)
  • Partial shade means that these plants won’t tolerate the intense heat of afternoon sun. They can have 3-6 hours of sun exposure, but keep these ones in a spot with afternoon shade.
  • Dappled sun is a category that means filtered sunlight, such as light that filters through the leaves of a tree.
  • Full shade is an interesting category. It doesn’t mean no sun at all. It’s less than 3 hours of direct sunlight each day and filtered sun the rest of the day. My hostas are full shade plants. But I confess, I’ve got some of them in partial shade and they seem fine, probably because they're getting afternoon shade.

If the plant is part of a grouping, is it blocking other plants behind it? Think in terms of a tiered effect. Tall plants in back, shorter ones in front. Your plants want to be seen in all their glory, unlike the candid photo in which you, the shortest person in the group, has chosen a hiding place behind your tall friend.

Against this fence my yard is seriously in need of some plant groupings. Notice the leaves I still haven't picked up.

How much overall space does that plant need? Next to a window isn’t a good place for a shrub that will grow 7 feet tall and wide, thus plunging your home’s interior into perma-gloom. Unless you’re a hermit or hobbit, then take into consideration the overall growth of the plant. In my case, I was going to move my Euonymous, seen in this pic, next to my AC to hide it. The final size of that plant is 4 feet by 4 feet. In no time at all, my AC unit would be suffocated. Instead, I’m going to put it in a corner of my backyard where there’s more room and it won’t crowd out anything.

These tips are just part of a larger group of considerations when it comes to landscape design. And I’m no expert. But I can Google and I can learn.

Here are a few sites that cover landscape design in terms of grouping plants. When you’re putting plants in a group, which you should do, three isn’t a crowd.

Plant by Number (Fine Gardening)

Plant Groups Can Help Create Natural Feeling (The Garden Sanctuary)

How to Plant a Garden: Planting in Odd Numbers for a More Natural Look (The Garden Spot)

This spring prep will definitely give my shovel a workout. I’m going to be moving a lot of plants to form groupings. And I need to do this BEFORE I buy new plants. It’s tempting to race to the garden nursery immediately and load up their shopping wagons. If you’re like me, a sense of delirious, semi-conscious giddiness overtakes me when I make that first spring trip to the nursery. But I’m going to take a deep breath, look over my garden with a strategic eye, plan my groupings, and then start to dig.