Biggest Gardening Mistakes – Forgetting the Future

I’m standing in front of one of the biggest mistakes in my landscape. I didn’t make the mistake. I don’t know who made the mistake, but it’s a mistake that I have to correct. And many of us have these type of problems when we move into a new house, or when we’re about to begin a garden or improve our landscape. Ttoday that’s what I’ll be talking about is one of the most common mistakes in the garden and the landscape and that’s forgetting to think about the future. Hi, I’m Gardener Scott and this beautiful shrub that I’m standing in front of is a chokecherry, which is highly recommended for my area and I’ve recommended them to many gardeners. I’ve never seen one this big and this wide and that’s one reason why I think it led to the problem that it is today. I don’t know who put this plant in but it probably goes back 15 years or so, at the time that it was a small plant. And they probably expected it only to be maybe three or four or five feet tall and wide. But that’s not what happened because whoever put this plant in didn’t look to the future to fully understand what the plant could be. Let me show you why it’s a problem. Walking out my back door onto the deck I have a wonderful view of my backyard and future garden, but to get there I have to go down the steps over here. And there’s also the gate going to the back yard. So this is the primary entrance to the back. So as I turn and go down this nice walkway I’m suddenly confronted by this big shrub. And the only way around it is to duck underneath these overhanging branches. This makes it difficult to get to the back yard on a regular basis, especially if I’m taking tools or plants. There are some nice retaining wall blocks all the way around this big shrub. And so I’m guessing previous owners made this little garden bed just off the walkway. It sits about three feet away from the wall, which would have probably allowed ample space to walk through. When they planted it, this was probably pretty small and easy to walk around. Not so easy to walk around anymore. So this plant has to go and I’ll be working on that soon. I will try to pot up some of the volunteers, the progeny at the base and put them in other areas of the landscape because it is a wonderful plant to grow. It provides food for wildlife, particularly the birds in the winter, but I also like to make chokecherry jelly for my own consumption. I don’t want to lose this plant entirely. It’s just… It doesn’t belong here. The landscape plant that probably causes more problems than any other is the tree. Almost all of us like trees. They offer so many advantages. But of all of our plants that we put in our landscape, they’re the ones that can cause more problems than any other if they’re not in the right spot and if we don’t take into account how big they can become. I’ve seen so many of these issues. You probably have too. You might even have them in your own landscape, where the tree is too close to the house or too close to the street or right next to the sidewalk and now the roots start breaking apart concrete decades after the plant was put in the ground. Those are just some of the things you need to think about when choosing your tree. Mine? I’ve got a few other issues. This beautiful linden tree is a centerpiece of the front yard and not unlike Many of the neighboring houses that have large trees in their front yard. But it’s apparent that this tree was planted in a small raised bed when it was very young. And so now the problem becomes the tree extends a few feet above the level of the yard. And because it was planted inside these stones, the roots have actually started circling around themselves and I’m quite concerned about the anchoring of this tree because there’s essentially no roots on this side extending out into the yard, and the roots on this side, as evidenced by some of the growth right here, have actually grown over this retaining block. So I’m concerned about the structural integrity of the roots on this side. You can see how the growth of the roots in searching for water and soil when it was put into this raised bed actually becomes a problem. There’s nothing wrong with the location of this tree, in fact it is close to perfect. It’s centered in the yard. It gets full sun. They made a wise decision in placing it here, but you also have to understand how the plant grows and putting a 40-foot linden tree in a small raised bed can be a problem in the future. So don’t only think about how big the plant gets think about how it grows and what it needs for the best growth and to avoid becoming a problem. Here’s another example of a beautiful plant. This is a lilac and there’s actually nothing wrong with this location, it’s not too close to the wall. It’s not too close to the fence. When they put this in they gave it enough room to grow. I need to prune it, but it’s doing OK. Where the problem comes in when you have a good plant like this that’s healthy in a nice spot is it starts sending out its offspring and so you’ll have more Lilac plants popping up in other areas. And those are the ones that you might have to be careful about. There’s a nice young lilac right here by this side of the house It sits right in front of one of the windows to the basement. So this becomes a problem because This is an emergency exit point and also further up this wall This is the exhaust for the fireplace. It might not seem like a big deal right now because this bush is small. But looking into the future this bush has the potential of becoming a 12 or 15 foot giant So now you’ve got a potential fire hazard and then a potential safety hazard if this bush is allowed to grow. So I removed this lilac that was growing here. I transplanted it to a section in the back where I think it’ll do equally well. This clears up this area for more plants, but looking to the future, I won’t put big bushes and shrubs because of the problems in this spot. But I can put the low-lying ground covers and some smaller flowers. I always recommend reading plant tags when it comes to selecting the plants for your garden and landscape. It’s particularly true when you’re dealing with the shrubs and the trees. You really need to know how big they’re going to get because they may outgrow the space where you think they’re perfect. It’s not easy removing a tree especially one of this size. It’s a lot of work and it can be quite expensive. But when there are safety factors involved it really becomes a no-brainer. And I’m lucky in that respect because this tree sustained some pretty serious storm damage, damage to the main trunk, and aside from the instability with the roots, I’m actually concerned that some of the big branches might fall on the house. So it has to go. The location was right, But how it was planted and how it was maintained was completely wrong… looking to the future and how it was going to grow. There are many other potential problems with the wrong plant in the wrong location. Our neighbor at our last house put in a Russian olive tree. It’s a nice tree, but in our area it’s an invasive species. So years later a lot of our neighbors had Russian olive trees when they didn’t want them. In our landscape we had some beautiful apple trees in the backyard, but the roots after growing for 20 years, totally destroyed the pipes leading to the septic system. So we had to take out those trees and completely replace all of those pipes. Those are just some of the issues. You need to anticipate the root growth, the height, the width… all of those factors, years ahead of time, when you decide to put a small plant in the ground today. I’d love to hear about any of your experiences with those type of landscape problems and if you have any comments or questions then just let me know below. If you want to continue seeing more of my gardening videos then subscribe to the Gardener Scott channel, if you haven’t already done so. And be sure to click on the bell. And if you like this video you can give me a thumbs up and share it. I’m Gardener Scott. Enjoy gardening.


  1. One of my pet peeves is trees to close to a house. I see all over. This is done by so called professional landscapers as well.

  2. My mother has always complained about how close the trees were planted to her house…. I think about this everytime I plant something now! Good video Scott thanks!

  3. I planted Formosa azaleas last spring; got them as small liners. Looked for info, and the best description I found was that "they get bigger than a VW Beetle". I am not good at conceptualizing measurements, but that I understood!

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