Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Monday, June 24, 2013

"How many plants do you have in your garden?"

Asked Mr I.

 I paused, wondering if it was a trick question, then replied, "It looks like a lot of plants and I suppose there are, but, really, what you are seeing is a lot of the same dozen or so plants."

"Seriously?" he said with just a hint of disbelief.

"Well, maybe!" I said coyly.
Asclepias tuberosa, Echinace pallida 'Hula Dancer' and Oenothera fruticosa
How many plants do I have in my garden? I haven't a clue! Somewhere in my office are several baskets of plant tags of the many plants I've planted in the 28 years I've been gardening here~some have thrived and others have lasted just a season or two~ and I am happy to say that there are more successes than failures.
Rudbeckia hirta, R fulgida and Abelia 'Kalaidascope'
What I can tell you is that my garden is jam packed. It's grown exponentially since we built the front porch in 2003 and moved a small wildflower and day lily garden to the sunny strip along the drive.
Echinacea, Eupatorium, Bottlebrush grass and  Hemerocallis 'Hyperion'

Although, the Susan's Bed (as that sunny strip is called) is a modest size, it's much larger in my imagination and of course I buy way more wildflowers than space to plant them. I end up having to pry them into any bit of available soil.  You could say that the garden has grown larger plant by plant. 
'Little Devil' Ninebark, Asclepias tuberosa, Rudbeckia foliage, 'Ascot Rainbow' Eupatorium and 'Fireworks' Gomphrena
Right now, it's nearly impossible to do any pinching back of the late season ex-asters or to dead head any of the spent day lilies and other plants without stomping on a treasured flower or three. Many a Susan has given its life to keep the garden looking a little tamer and less like clown pants.
Gaura, Lavender and Echinacea
Maybe, it is time to survey the garden to see how many plant families are represented and get a flower head count of the various species and cultivars...I am pretty sure there are more than a "few dozen of the same plants".
Silphium perfoliatum, Hemerocallis, Liatris, Thermopsis villosa, Hibiscus 'Kopper King', Shasta Daisy, Eupatorium dubium, Ratibida pinnata, Rudbeckia maxima and Elymus hystrix

One thing is for sure,  I won't be sharing my findings with Mr I! The other day when I was heading out to a nursery with a friend, he actually said, "Why are you going to the nursery, you have plenty of plants!"

As if that were even possible.


Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. LOL, Mr. I and my husband are cut from the same cloth. His line is "Aren't you done yet?" Um....Nope!

  2. Wouldn't even know where to begin, Gail! Certainly food for thought! (Your gardens are lovely!)

  3. Beautiful photos!
    My motto is: "There's always room for one more!"
    Have a wonderful week!
    Lea's Menagerie

  4. It's an interesting question, actually.

    Around our subdivision, I see mostly the same 10 plants repeated ad nauseum.

    I'd guess I have added somewhere around 50 plant genera since I started gardening three years ago.

    Of course, within those genera or even within a species there can be multiple varieties. So I have six different kinds of Lagerstroemia indica (Crape Myrtle). Or three different kinds of garden phlox (Phlox paniculata). Roughly speaking, maybe 100 varieties of plants?

    I'd say there are another 100 or so genera that I'd like to at least try in my garden. I figure many of those won't pan out, but ultimately I'd like to have a with ~100 genera, representing perhaps 200-300 species (some genera I'd probably only have one representative species, but I'd like to try about 10 species of Viburnums for instance) and perhaps 400-500 varieties.

    Is that too many plants? ;-)

    I think biodiversity is a Good Thing. It makes life interesting and it certainly seems to support a healthy, lively ecosystem.

    For instance, as the garden matures, I'm noticing that pest problems seem to decrease. This year there are more green lacewings (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysopidae) in the garden than ever before and correspondingly fewer bug problems.

  5. Whoa! Your secret number of plants is safe with us, Gail, Mr. I will never know the true count. As if any of us, even those who love to count things really knows. The plant tags are one thing, but there are passalongs and self seeded crosses and those things the birds plant, to name but a few. The correct answer might be: Lots and we need many more!

  6. My husband now just aims a wry smile at me when I say I'm off to the nursery but I'm afraid he's also been known to provide me with pie charts showing my annual expenditures...

  7. There's a big difference between plenty and enough. As long as there's room in the plant tag bag, there's room in the garden for at least a car-load more from the nursery.

  8. Ha! I've often thought it would be fun to do an inventory - but it's even more fun to just go buy a few more plants!

  9. Mine says that too.

  10. Enough plants??? Is that possible???? I don't think so. Who asked was surely was joking when asking how many plants? Gives me a headache just trying to think about what all is out in my garden. ha... Just sit back on that porch and enjoy it.

  11. Jam packed plants = less room for weeds! (That's my excuse-er, theory-anyway! ;-)

  12. There is always room for one more plant... always!

  13. I get the same attitude from Mr D but he knows to keep it shut at this point as there will be what there will be....actually he is a great help as he learns the weeds so he can pull them daily...I have been meaning to take inventory as well but as of yet have not had the time. I plan to next year so I can see how many natives compared to non-natives and who does what where....love it Gail!!!!

  14. We went by a favorite greenhouse just this weekend. I hadn't been there for a long time. He saw me looking longingly at the plants, but we were in a hurry and didn't stop. We talked about it on the way home, but it was closed. Boo Hoo. My garden is jammed too...I really don't know where I could put another plant...but I always have the woods :)

  15. Dear Gail - I believe this is what is commonly called "preaching to the choir."

  16. A few years ago I tried making a list and it was a lot. Lost it since then, though, and there have been some changes since then. Love the pictures of the butterflyweed, mine is just starting to bloom. And also, what's wrong with clown pants?

  17. "As if that were ever possible" -- so true! And of course I agree with the other comments -- Vicki's made me smile. :)

  18. I have too many this year! Been pulling susans like crazy as they self-sowed everywhere. Love them, though. I really shouldn't buy anymore plants, but...I know I will.

  19. As a matter of fact I did this little exercise last month and came up with about 280 separate species and/or cultivars, but that did not count the many unnamed iris and daylilies I failed to make any notes on.

  20. I'm trying hard to rein in my plant collecting tendency, and to have a more orderly garden. It's difficult! But I have given away many plants this year, especially those that were just one. Doing much better at repeating elements and planting in odd numbers, but I have to admit I'm mostly doing so to please my neat-nik hubby!

  21. Repeating plants gives a garden design a sense of cohesiveness. But really, I bet you have a lot more than a dozen types. I would love to see it in person someday. It's just lovely.

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