In this issue:
Landscape design advice
Aralia tree for August bloom
Protect your cabbage
Start Dahlia, Canna
Fertilize Rhododendron, azalea
Realistic spacing for new plants
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My husband and I are looking to buy a new home and it
will probably be one in a new development. What suggestions can you
make for choices for new shrubs, trees, flowers, etc. to get the
most bang for your buck? I imagine we won't have much spare change
to devote to landscaping right away. - L.G. -
If you don't know where to start and aren't familiar with
landscape plants, the best investment is in books, time on line, a
class, or commissioning a landscape design. Every dollar spent is a
dollar wasted if that shrub or tree dies, becomes too large or
fails to produce the desired floral or foliage effects. Worse, poor
landscape choices cost us time since it often takes years to
realize that a surviving plant won't fulfill expectations.
Savings from study or hire a designer
Books and classes might cost 50 or several hundred dollars plus
50 or more hours of your time to take a class at a school or
on-line. A designer's bill can range from a few hundred to a few
thousand dollars, depending on lot size and the complexity of your
To measure the return on that investment, divide dollars and
hours spent between all the plants in your yard and all the years
that landscape will serve you. Add an intangible dividend for
pleasure derived from surroundings that were not stamped from a
cookie cutter but arranged to fit your particular tastes and
Many garden centers and landscaping firms offer design services.
Shop among available designers as you would for any other personal
service. Ask others in the market for recommendations and interview
potential providers. Obtain referrals and go see examples of a
designer's work that are at least two years old.
Two more suggestions.
First, avoid choosing all your landscape plants during spring.
Trees and shrubs put on marvelous vernal shows. You will probably
want such a show but selecting solely for the glory of a two-week
display often nets a fifty-week disappointment. Plants that impress
you in May can still be obtained in summer, fall or next spring. So
note names and locations of what you like in spring then revisit
them in at least one other season to see if the attraction
continues with good shape, leaf color, attractive fruit, fall color
or interesting bark.
Second, think small. Dwarf conifers and perennial plants are
playing far greater roles in the landscapes of the enlightened, for
good reason. Although an unplanted yard seems huge a single shade
tree and handful of shrubs can overfill it quickly and
unexpectedly. (More shrubs grow to 15 feet tall than remain at five
feet!) Dwarf conifers and perennials can involve less pruning,
offer greater winter interest, provide more interesting floral
displays and satisfy a wider range of special interests.
Finally, don't forget the Garden A to Z Forum, where you can ask
questions and post photos for consideration by instructors from the
gardening school we ran for a dozen years as well as many other
helpful, experienced gardener-members. They are generous with
advice and enthusiastic when it comes to answering illustrated
Unusual summer blooming
On your radio show a while ago you described a small
variegated tree for a partly shaded area, one that blooms in
August. I thought you called it an aralia dogwood. I can't find
anything like that in my books or catalogs. - L.D. -
Dogwoods are great small trees but the latest-blooming species
is the kousa dogwood, also called Chinese dogwood (Cornus
kousa) which blooms in late May or early June and may coninue
in color for four weeks.
The tree you heard us describe was almost certainly a variegated
aralia, Aralia elata 'Variegata.' It's not a common
item at local garden centers but you can order it from Forestfarm, 990 Tetherow Road,
Williams, Oregon 97544.
Springtime to-do list
...are flying in spring, so cover kale and other members of the
mustard family as you set them out in your vegetable garden.
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts can be
protected with floating row cover, available at garden centers.
This gauzy material lets light and air through but keeps moth eggs
off the plants.
Start dahlia and canna
...for early June planting-out. Put a one- or two inch layer of
soilless mix into a 6" pot. Set a tuber on that mix and barely
cover it. No light is necessary at first, just warmth and moisture.
When growth begins and the shoot rises, keep covering that sprout
with additional layers of soilless mix. Move the pot into the light
when the sprout reaches the top of the pot.
Green thumbs up
...to monthly showering of rhododendrons, azaleas, and holly
with a fertilizer solution that also provides micronutrients. Both
foliage and roots can absorb that form of fertilizer.
Green thumbs down
...to that shoehorn you're using to fit new plants into existing
beds. You know they need more room than that! Take something out so
a new recruit has a fighting chance.
First published 4/29/00, updated 4/22/13
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