Tuesday, July 14, 2020
July 14, 2020

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Gardening With Allen Wilson: Mature shrub size key to attractive landscape design


The shrubs around my home are overgrown and unattractive. What suggestions do you have for replacing them?

The main problem with most mature landscapes is overgrown shrubs that no longer enhance your home. They may have been sheared so they are all round balls or boxy hedges. They may have lost their leaves at the bottom because of overgrown tops. In many cases, shrubs have grown together so they no longer have their individual shape or character.

Even if your landscape is relatively young, you may be able to see shrubs that will soon be overcrowded. You may be able to remove some of the extra ones before they have completely grown together. This will allow the remaining ones to retain their natural shape.

If it is too late to do anything but remove an entire row or group of shrubs, make plans for replacements. You will find ideas online by searching “landscape design.” There are lots of books on landscaping at the library. One of the best books for plant selection is “Sunset Western Garden Book.” It has the most complete selection of plants.

Full-service nurseries and garden stores can help you select locally adapted plants. Be sure to measure the height and width of planting areas. Replanting with plants that reach a mature size greater than their allotted space will result in the same problem a few years from now. Try selecting plants that will still be within their allotted space when they are full grown. Then very little pruning will ever be required.

Consider widening beds near buildings so that you can leave some space between shrubs and the building. A minimum 3- to 4-foot width is needed to accommodate most shrubs. Try curving the beds to get a more natural look.

Limit the different kinds of shrubs you plant. In most cases clusters of three or more of the same shrub are more attractive than individuals. One or two individual specimen plants may combine well with clusters of other plants. Space plants according to their mature size. Use larger size plants to get a more immediate full look.

Consult books on landscape design for ideas about attractive groupings. If you are planning to do extensive landscape remodeling, a landscape architect or designer may be a good investment.