Epic Fail in My Landscape

imageLast summer, I designed and installed a whole new front foundation bed. It took almost a year for me to even design it, as I wanted to find the most obscure plants for my garden. No ordinary plants for Ilex!!

I noticed a new plant being offered at a few nurseries of mine called First Editions® Amber Jubilee® Ninebark or it’s original name, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Jefam’ PPAF. Basically, Monrovia bought the rights to ‘Jefam’ and changed it’s name to patent it.

Ninebark’s are native here, so I didn’t question the hardiness of this shrub. I thought it’s orange leaves would be a wonderful addition to my landscape.

Sadly, this spring they barely leafed out. All five shrubs are toast. At $45 a pop at wholesale, that was a hit to my pocketbook. Hubby will be doing me the pleasure of removing them. I’ve decided large perennials would be a better choice for this location. We will be painting the house next spring and they will be safe underground opposed to these shrubs next to the house. The replacement cost is five times lower, also.

So, what happened here!?!

Well. Here are a few thoughts that ran through my mind:

  • They were planted at the correct depth, mulched and watered correctly.
  • They were planted in the correct exposure, 6 hours of sun.
  • There wasn’t an herbicide accident or outside force that took them out.
  • No animal damage.
  • Yes, sometimes things just die.

As a horticulturist, I do take this personally. I don’t understand how something can just die on my watch! I do know there are forces in nature that we as humans can’t understand yet. I get it.

The thing I did find interesting is that these plants started being advertised by Monrovia in 2014. I’m not sure how long the original ‘Jefam’ had been around. In 2015, nurseries were full of them. This year, they aren’t listed in any of the inventories. This tells me that the plant wasn’t popular or didn’t over-winter well at the nurseries. If a nursery can’t keep a plant alive, who could?

In the end, I figured my story would make non-professional gardeners feel better. Things do die in the landscape, even under the watchful eye of an educated horticulturist.

PS – I wrote this post before I ripped them out of the landscape and didn’t want to do a whole rewrite…

There is another possibility/reason they croaked. Their root systems were very week and undeveloped, a nursery management issue. Nurseries sell by pot size and actual size. Most likely the nursery had many orders for these and sold them sooner than they should have from a recent upsize in pot. Immature plants with under-developed root systems survive just fine under drip irrigation and climate control. Once out in the real world (like kids after college), they don’t realize how tough the real world is. These ripped out of the ground with little effort, as the rootball was only he size of a softball. It should have been the size of a basketball, at least.


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

38 thoughts on “Epic Fail in My Landscape

  1. That’s a bummer. I learned long ago to only plant things that I know have a proven record in my area. None the less there are a few plants that simply will not grow for me but I keep trying every few years. These are always perennials. I don’t go for the big stuff if it has ever failed me. Our climate is brutal here in the summer so shrubs have to be super hardy and able to be established by year two or at most year three.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t think I was going that far off the local pallet, ninebarks are native here. My last conclusion is that the nursery sold them too small and I didn’t water them enough. Oh well… Wait until you see what I did yesterday. I put a bunch of tall perennials there. I think it will actually look nicer. 😎


  2. how bad that this happened…I looked for this plants via google and I love this colorful leaves… I always fail with hibiscus, I can’t count the plants I bought :o( … my most expensive fail was an Araucaria… the plant guy warned me to buy a bigger tree, because they dislike climate changes, but I wouldn’t listen and wanted all with getting nothing :o(((

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “As a horticulturist, I do take this personally. I don’t understand how something can just die on my watch! I do know there are forces in nature that we as humans can’t understand yet. I get it.”

    I know this sounds silly, but somehow as I read this I pictured you in the confession cubby hole. I hope you received forgiveness for your sin.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Too bad about the shrubs. I think any plant that is transplanted has a struggle to become re-established and the stress can be too much for some. Happens to me with houseplants sometimes. I love gardening and have plants for curtains.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, Thank you for this – I Do feel better! 😀
    My plants die all the time – cos I am a rubbish gardener. Like you, sometimes when removing the dead plant I find a tiny shriveled root ball. Now I know why! 🙂


  6. Yes, its hard to have a green thumb and see a plant die on your watch. But it happens. Does irritate you when you spend so much on the plant. Was probably the root system on these plants.


  7. Interesting… For the sake of argument, let’s say the roots were the sole reason for its untimely demise. How would that be counteracted in the future if somebody were to buy a badly rooted plant? Upgrade it first to a bigger pot for a certain length of time to give the roots a chance to branch out and then plant it in the ground?

    I thought I was going to lose my little trees last summer. Some of the local trees had dropped seedlings in a neighbor’s flower garden and I picked the three prettiest to put out in the yard when I was helping her weed. Nearly lost two of them, and they’re still tiny at about eighteen inches tall from the very tops having fallen off from the summer heat last year combined with transplant shock, but the maple didn’t suffer and has shot up to nearly higher than my head so far this year!


    • If I knew ahead of time that something was not rooted-in as well as it should, I would keep it in its pot for a while and water it almost daily. I’d watch it until the roots encompass the outer parts of the pot, ie, many roots can be seen and the whole root ball (soil) is held together by roots.
      While planting the original time, I should have noticed the amount of soil that fell off them when planting… I should have known a bit better 😣
      The next uh-oh from the same nursery is that 2 out of my 5 quince bloom orange and the other 3 red 😠 That urks me.
      I’m glad you got your maple to grow! Keep giving it some love and maybe a bit of fertilizer this fall. I think you have a great shot at it making it! 🌳

      Liked by 1 person

      • I kick myself every time I ignore red flags like that. I know a lot of the time when I miss a warning sign it’s because it was just a tickle in the back of my head that never finished the processing routine into “Danger, Will Robinson!”

        Thankie! It looks like it’ll flourish, even with my rather inexperienced touch. I’ll be looking forward to future pictures of your new plants too, I’m sure you’ll be able to get these to grow beautifully. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ugh! Nothing like ignoring the little metal robot in your head yelling Danger! (I religiously watched Lost in Space as a child!) I think we don’t want to believe those things constantly, and hope we’re wrong… but we know better!
          I’m good with perennials. I should stick to what I’m good at 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  8. That IS comforting, thank you.

    I just moved a butterfly bush of some sort from one side to the other, and I think I might lose it. It didn’t look healthy to begin with, and it had a small root ball, either because I shoveled it out too small or it was dying anyway. We’ll never know I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

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