By Norman Winter
Have you ever shopped for a house and discovered you liked the ones with gorgeous landscapes better? Homes with attractive landscapes generally bring a premium price.
While we don’t necessarily plant a landscape to help sell our home, we should avoid anything that hurts our investment, including a mundane landscape.
Trees and shrubs for the landscape can be expensive, but it is well worth the investment. Carefully design and plan such an investment to provide years of pleasure.
Garden centers and nurseries are full of fresh trees, shrubs and roses, but they have much more than plants. They have experts to assist you with landscape design or a home improvement plan.
After carefully making plans, people often fail to properly place the individual plants in the landscape. Putting a $5 plant in a $10 planting hole does have merit!
Successfully starting new shrubs and trees in the landscape often depends on planting techniques and care. You only have one chance to get a new plant off to a good start.
Shrub beds should be well-drained to moist, loose, nutrient- and humus-rich with a layer of mulch to prevent moisture loss, deter weeds and moderate summer temperatures. This soil will be the home for the life of those plant’s roots.
Metal edging, landscape timbers, brick and masonry work well to separate turf from beds and allow the soil to be raised with organic matter.
Nurseries and garden centers have a prepared landscape mix for raised beds of new azaleas or hollies. Purchase these soil mixes by the bag, cubic yard, pick-up or truck full. The economical price of the cubic yard will make you wonder why you have been torturing your plants with heavy clay.
Dig the planting hole three to five times wider than the diameter of the root ball but no deeper. Gently tease the roots to break the circular root pattern. If the plant is pot-bound, separate the roots by making three vertical cuts through the root system.
Historically, shrubs hid the ugly foundation of a house. Today, shrubs often frame trees or other plantings. Some are planted in masses to create a thicket appearance.
Avoid planting in straight lines. Try to use bold curves to create a mystery for what lies around the next turn. Use three to five basic plants that you repeat elsewhere in the landscape. Growing one or two of every shrub available may look like an unplanned arboretum. Instead, plant in groupings of odd numbers like seven, nine and 11.
Use shrubs as background for color. Azaleas offer the ability to have an attractive shrub that also combines well with other spring colors such as bulbs, phlox or pansies. For the rest of the year, we can use them as a background for pockets of color in the summer from petunias, verbenas or melampodium.
It seems the majority of homeowners fail to use azaleas in this manner. They are content to relish the azalea in bloom and ignore them for the rest of the year. But the most beautiful landscapes are those that put the azaleas in bed with other plants rather than scattered under pine trees without purpose.
When the pocketbook is tight, buy larger container-grown shrubs and smaller trees. It might seem expensive, but you will not need as many and you will be more likely to plant at the correct spacing.