Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shrubs, roses and trees for your garden arrangement

Trees and shrubs form the ideal basis for an easy-care garden because this group of plants needs less maintenance than any other. Plants from this group provide interest all year round, giving a long sequence of flowers, fruits or berries, winter bark and stems, as well as variegated and evergreen foliage. Do not purchase all or even most of the shrubs for your garden at the one time: instead buy plants in every season, because you will see something new in flower every time you visit the garden centre. And don't look just for flowers, but also for interesting leaves, berries or bark.

Trees and shrubs provide the backbone of a garden's design, as their size and shape, and the color and texture of their bark and foliage can be used to great effect. Go for those that bloom reliably and are not susceptible to pests and diseases. That may mean leaving some of the most popular plants out of your plan - for instance, in very humid, warm areas both azaleas and roses are unwise choices, because they are plagued by pests and diseases that take a lot of time and effort to control. If you choose shrubs that are identified as quick growing, be prepared to spend the time pruning them each year.

Easy-care Calendar

Early Spring
Remove weeds and debris. Top up mulch to at least 5cm deep. Lay snail bait around seedlings and soft new growth.

Mid Spring
Sprinkle complete plant food evenly between the shrubs. Spot-treat established perennial weeds with a glyphosate-based weedkiller.

Late Spring
If frosts have damaged shrubs, snip off blackened shoots. If necessary, shape by pruning back straggly shoots.

Early Summer
Check roses and other shrubs for aphids and caterpillars. Use an all-purpose insecticide to minimize damage. Check watering systems to ensure all spray heads are working properly.

Mid Summer
Deadhead shrub roses not grown for hips by removing old flowerheads with 15cm of stem, cutting just above a leaf joint. Sprinkle rose food to promote flowering in autumn.

Tidy up any debris before winter. Fallen leaves can be left as mulch on beds.

Starting from Scratch
You could assemble this border in less than half a day by planning ahead. Draw a plan and order plants in advance. Dig the soil thoroughly, incorporating well-rotted compost and fertilizer. When the plants arrive, wait for a fine day to plant them out. Then apply a mulch to keep down weeds.

Planting for year-round interest
Once this cool-climate planting is established, you need to spend only a few hours each year topping up the mulch, spot-treating persistent weeds and pruning unruly shrubs.

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