Monday, December 17, 2007

Improving existing borders in your garden

Sometimes old garden borders lack interest, especially if some of the shrubs are past their best. One option is to replace all the shrubs and start again, but this is hard work and will leave you with empty spaces until the new shrubs begin to grow. A quicker method is to keep some of the existing plants to provide the structure for the new border and shrubs that offer more than one season of interest, then replace the rest - in particular, short-lived shrubs such as lavender, santolina and some natives - with healthier or more interesting plants. Thus the height and structure of the border are maintained while the shrubs become established.

Once the border has been thinned, the old shrubs that are being kept may look misshapen or bald at the base. You can transform their appearance by simple pruning, taking out a few of the oldest stems each spring, but don't prune them back hard because many shrubs may not regrow or may take years to flower again.

To fill the gaps quickly, buy a few larger specimens rather than several smaller plants but don't overplant the space available or you'll soon have the same problem again. Just keep in mind what the ultimate sizes of the shrubs you are planting will be, and space them accordingly. If the old foliage is mainly green, brighten up the display with shrubs that have golden, purple or variegated foliage. Even with all this replanting, you will still have bare ground, so you may choose to use annuals as a short-term filler while the new shrubs grow. As the months pass, you will have less and less space to fill and the garden bed will need less attention.

Before planting, improve the soil by forking in a bucketful of well-rotted organic matter for each square meter, and applying a ration of complete plant food. Once the new shrubs are in, water them regularly to help them grow faster and to compete against older plants with established root systems. If you choose not to fill bare spots with annuals, lay down mulch matting or an organic mulch to retain soil moisture and minimize weed growth. But remember, the longer bare patches remain, even covered by mulch, the greater the risk of weeds.


ian said...

Hi there, I was just passing by and i got this story nice, I enjoyed reading it.
I am inspired by your hard work, keep up the great job.

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