How to design a shrub bed

Ornamental shrubs are low woody perennial plants that usually have several stems or trunks. Shrubs provide four-season beauty to a country garden or an urban landscape. Many shrubs present beautiful fall foliage. Others offer brightly coloured stems and unique shapes in dramatic contrast to the winter snows. Many shrubs provide spring flowers . Evergreen shrubs provide year around greenery. Most shrubs are easy to care for and are drought and disease resistant.

Sketch out the dimensions of the shrub bed or planting area. Decide on the landscape effect you wish to achieve. Choose evergreens for year around greenery and consistent foliage. Select deciduous shrubs for spring flowers, fall foliage and winter ornamental interest. There are hundreds of varieties of tall, spreading, low growing and bushy type shrubs. You can even choose shrubs that bear berries to attract birds and wildlife.

Take a soil sample to your county extension office or landscape design centre to determine the nutrient content of your soil and if it should be amended to nurture the shrubs you are choosing to plant. If you are planning a windbreak or shelter belt to provide food and habitat for birds and wildlife, your extension agent will provide information on shrubs ideal for that purpose. Often free shrubs and trees are available.

Talk to the country extension office to find out which shrubs are native to your area. Some shrubs such as eastern red cedar, mimosa and dog wood may become invasive. Be aware of what shrubs will flourish in your garden and which will be a gardening challenge. Consider the light and soil requirements of the shrubs you are considering. Many species will grow in shade or partial shade, while others grow best in full sun.

Consider how large the shrub will be at maturity. Dwarf varieties are ideal for the front of the shrub bed; choose tall shrubs for the back of the bed or against a foundation or fence. Shrubs can be purchased at landscape nurseries and garden centres in plastic tubs, buckets, fabric pots, bare-root, or balled and burlap wrapped.

Till the soil in the planting area, removing all roots and rocks. Prepare a planting mixture of equal parts top soil, peat moss, organic compost and sand. (Do not use beach sand because of the high salt content.) Shrubs prefer nutrient rich, well drained soil.

Dig the holes for planting. Shrubs should be planted 3 to 5 feet apart depending on their size at maturity and growing habits. Each hole should be about twice as wide and twice as deep as the root mass of the shrub. Fill the hole about half full of the planting mixture and fill the hole with water. Allow the water and soil to settle and drain.

Place the shrub centred in the hole and aligned vertically. Add soil and gently tamp down the soil to eliminate air pockets around the roots. Plant the shrub to the same depth as it was previously planted. Water well.

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