KENNEWICK -- Some of you may already know that I am a fan of reality show competitions like Survivor, Top Chef and Project Runway.
Gardeners love plants and find it hard to edit their gardens to evaluate what's working well and what's not. Perhaps it would be easier to vote plants "off" if we consider our landscapes and gardens as "reality competitions" with the plants as the players.
Just like human reality competitions, plants with different personalities emerge over time.
The most obvious are those plants that are overly assertive and egotistical. Aggressive plants often don't stay put, taking up more space than you allotted or growing larger than you expected. They try to take over the garden and overwhelm the other plants. They are the bullies that no one really likes. Vote them off or relocate them to a spot where they can't overpower other plants.
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There are also the weak players who aren't well prepared to play the game and fail to perform well under pressure. As plants, they have weak growth and don't thrive well under stressful conditions. Before voting these off, you may want to try them in a different part of the yard where you can better meet their needs in regards to soil, moisture or exposure. If they still don't thrive, vote them off.
Then there are the "needy" players that are more trouble than they are worth.
These are the plants that require constant attention. A needy plant may require multiple applications of a pesticide to keep a disease or insect pest problem in check. It could also be a plant that needs constant deadheading to keep it blooming or needs frequent pruning to keep it in check.
You may be a tolerant gardener, but too many needy plants take up time and effort that could be spent on other gardening chores or simply enjoying the garden. If I was you, I would vote them off.
How about the players who don't live up to your great expectations? These are the plants that don't flower well or have flowers that aren't like you pictured, plants that are supposed to produce fruit but never do, or trees that don't turn the nice fall colors they were supposed to develop. These plants fly under the radar. They don't excel, but they don't stick out like sore thumbs. But why keep them if they don't fulfill your expectations? Vote them off if they have no other redeeming qualities.
On the TV reality competitions, there is always a catch phrase when a contestant gets eliminated, such as "In the world of fashion, you're either in or you're out, and you're out," or "Please pack your knifes and go."
Perhaps our reality garden catchphrase can be, "It's time for you to go."
The plants that remain in the game are the top players who perform well or even better than you expected. They do their intended job in your design and don't require lots of attention.
Playful analogies aside, it's important to edit and remove plants that aren't contributing to the overall appearance of your landscape and garden.
What plants are up for elimination in your landscape and garden this year?
* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.