Maximize Your Landscape

Shaina Oliphant
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Shrubs can be so much more than a green backdrop for sparkling annuals and perennials. When selecting shrubs, first decide if you want ones that are evergreen for a year-round dark background, or if you’d prefer a flowering deciduous shrub that has colorful stems, interesting bark, or a unique branch structure for winter enjoyment. Make a list of the plant types you want to buy based on size, color, leaf types, and so forth. List the number of shrubs to purchase to develop your plan.

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Consider Maintenance When Designing

When designing new beds that are going to have shrubs in the background, always consider maintenance of the bed. Be sure to plan for the eventual mature size of the shrub, or expect to prune. Select shrubs that have similar water requirements and purchase a soaker hose or install drip irrigation. And remember that some shrubs are more disease and pest resistant than others.

Incorporating Color

Of course, green is the predominate color of most shrubs but have you ever considered the different leaf textures that are available? They can be shiny or fuzzy, feathery or prickly. Some shrubs bear decorative fruit. Look at the plant tags to find shrubs with interesting features. One great design trick is to combine your shrubs with annuals and perennials of differing shades of gray or different leaf shapes.

For the best design, something should always be attractive in a bed year-round, whether it’s bulbs in early spring, flowering shrubs and annuals in summer, gorgeous fall color, or colorful or picturesque stems in winter.

Finding Inspiration

Where can you get some ideas? Take a relaxing walk around your neighborhood, see what appeals to you and take notes. Ask yourself what it is about the landscapes you like and why they appeal to you.

Planning the Landscape Bed

Plan your project with a rough drawing. First, measure the area of the new bed. Your initial rough drawing should indicate other considerations such as wind direction, sun exposure and whether you need to hide anything, such as downspouts or power connections. Use a bubble-style drawing (instead of precise shapes, draw larger circles or bubbles that indicate the eventual size of the shrub and where it will overlap other plants) to outline the rough areas for the various plants.

Planting the Shrub Bed

Once you’ve planned your shrub bed and purchased the plants, you’ll want to set the plants out in the locations you’ve selected for them. Then, move them around to see if there’s a better combination than what you had on paper. Always remember that the shrubs will grow! Once you’re satisfied with the look, proceed to plant and finish off your design with edging to frame the garden bed. Finally, watch your new landscape bed grow.

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