19 September 2010

Planting Guide: Shrubs.

Already back in London after a well-deserved week of holidays in Barcelona that has allowed me to charge batteries after a really tough year.

With this post I pretend to start a series of them related with plants, from perennials to climbers, trees, etc. giving some advice and suggestions that might be useful for everyone. From gardens already built with some maintenance or improvement needs to completely new ones that are going to be designed, these tips can be used as a helpful guide.

To create structure and shape in the garden, shrubs are the first plants you should think of, as these provide foliage, flowers, fragance and fruit so with careful planning you can have all-year round interest. Shrubs can be planted at any time of the year as long as the soil is not too wet or frozen. Once you have decided which plants are going to be used, think on the principles of Design, that is Continuity, Unity and Rhythm, so there is a link and a feeling of balance among all the plants.

 Note: All images from Google Images. No copyright breakage intended.

Before planting and as a general rule of thumb, clear the area of weeds and dig a hole twice the size of the pot, adding some slow-release fertilizer to improve the growth during the season. Once the shrub is planted water well and keep watering more than usual for the next few weeks until established. If you are planting in a dry spot, make a slight depression around the plant to ensure water gets into the soil and roots. Some suggestions depending on the final placement or use of these shrubs are:
  1. Autumn foliage & fruit: Acer palmatum "Osakazuki" (Japanese maple), Amelanchier lamarckii (Snowy mespilus), Chaenomeles x superba "Crimson & Gold", Cotinus coggygria "Royal Purple" (Smokewood), Pyracantha "Saphyr Orange" (Firethorn), Spiraea japonica "Goldflame", Viburnum opulus "Compactum".
  2. Ground cover: Ceanothus tyrsiflorus var. repens, Cotoneaster dammeri, Hebe "Emerald Green", Pachysandra terminalis "Green Carpet", Vinca major.
  3. Flowers & fraganceBuddleja davidii "Peacock" (butterfly bush), Choisya ternata (Mexican blossom), Daphne mezereumElaeagnus angustifoliaSyringa vulgaris.
Note: All images from Google Images. No copyright breakage intended.

When choosing your shrubs, take into consideration that small shrubs are easier to grow and more successful than larger plants and remember that while you may buy a small plant, it will grow over the next few years. To look after your shrubs, during the first years water well during dry periods and add some general fertilizer to the soil every spring. Pruning can be required on some shrubs, so check the plant label for information or ask your local nursery or garden centre.

Finally before the first frosts, move any tender plants in containers into a conservatory or greenhouse, protecting as well any plant of borderline hardiness with a 15 cm. thick layer of bark chips or any other mulch on their base. Evergreens keep their leaves throughout the winter, but if the weather is really tough drape a protective fleece over newly planted shrubs.

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