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Published on Thu, Sep 28, 2006 by Doreen Trudel

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Home Improvement

By Doreen Trudel

Shrubs and trees

Shrubs and trees are a wonderful way to improve the appearance of your home’s exterior.

And October is a great time to transplant trees and shrubs. The rain has usually returned by now so the plants will need minimal hand watering in their new homes.

Some gardeners have successfully transplanted large shrubs without pruning but I have not. I now heavily prune all large shrubs before transplanting.

I have even pruned shrubs that I thought were dead only to find lush new growth the following spring.

Late October to November is an ideal time to move roses. Prune the rose back to a manageable size, prepare the new hole preferably several inches larger than the root ball.

When digging out the rose try to keep as many roots as possible and don’t worry if the soil falls away from the roots.

It is essential to keep the roots damp until the rose is planted in its new home so water the roots and cover with newspaper or plastic to keep in the moisture.

Before replanting you can trim away any broken or errant roots. Treat the transplant as you would any bare root planting making sure there is plenty of water and don’t feed until the plant is established. I have heard conflicting advice about hard pruning when you transplant a rose. Personally I have had greater success when I do severely prune the transplanted roses.

If you have considered planting a hedge in your garden now is the time to implement your plan. Hedges act as wind breaks, provide privacy and screen unsightly views. They act as noise barriers and mark boundaries.
When designing a hedge remember that a mature hedge will need space. It would not be unusual for a hedge to be six to eight feet thick.

They need room to spread or they will encroach on neighboring plants. Consider the desired maximum height of the hedge.

If you want a low growing hedge plant shrubs whose maximum range is within three to four feet.

If you plant tall shrubs you will spend all summer pruning off the new growth. As with all planting make sure your chosen shrubs are suitable for your site and soil type.

If you have ever visited the English countryside you will remember miles and miles of hedgerows. This type of hedge looks informal but there is a great deal of labor behind the casual façade.

A hedgerow consists of a variety of deciduous and evergreen shrubs whose stems and branches are carefully interwoven over a simple support structure and pruned to maintain a narrow but dense fence. A hedge of this type is strong and beautiful but beyond the scope of this column

The hedge I talk about here is the common North American hedge which consists of shrubs planted close together to form a dense wall of greenery.

There are three basic types of hedge designs, formal, semi-formal and informal. Within these three styles you can have also have hedges consisting of a single genus or a mix of compatible shrubs.

A formal hedge must be sheared regularly to maintain its geometric lines. Many fine examples of old formal hedges can be found on Southwest Marine Drive in Vancouver.

They are labor intensive and must be carefully planned and maintained from the time they are planted. This type of hedge is usually sheared twice a year with the aid of a plumb line to maintain the correct shape.
Choice of shrub is crucial if you want to grow a formal hedge. The leaves must be small or dense and the shrub must have branches and leaves growing from the base of the trunk.

If you choose conifers for a formal hedge they must be kept under control because they do not respond well to severe pruning. Once a conifer hedge is allowed to grow out of control your only recourse may be to replace it.

A formal hedge should be shaped so that it is wider at the base and narrower at the top. This allows more sunlight into the base of the shrub keeping those lower branches from becoming bare and spindly.

For a formal hedge choose plants that will respond well to pruning with dense leaf structure. Some possible choices are; Escallonia, Photinia, Pittosporum, Taxus baccata (yew) and Ligustrum japonicum (privet).

When you plant a formal hedge you plant for the future. It will take several years of careful guidance to develop a mature hedge.

Semi-formal hedges are pruned rather than sheared to maintain size and to keep the shrub neat and dense.

They are not as labor intensive as a formal hedge but care should be taken not to let the hedge become unruly or severe corrective pruning will have to be undertaken.

Informal hedges are generally allowed to mature naturally pruning the occasional errant or broken branch.

It is important to be aware of the plant’s growth characteristics when choosing shrubs for an informal hedge.

Choose plants whose mature height is within the range of the desired height of the hedge.

Possible shrubs for both the semi-formal and informal hedge are; Photinia, Abelia, Ceanothus, Escallonia, Pieris japonica, Choisya ternate, Nandina, Eleagnus, Prunus lusitanica, Osmanthus delavayi or Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’, several taller Mahonia and Laurus nobilis.

All of the plants listed here are evergreen but if you are willing to grow a deciduous hedge the list of possible shrubs is even longer and one of the most beautiful hedges I have seen was simply a row of Rosa rugosa, the lovely wild looking rose which has big orange hips in winter.

No matter what shrub you choose for your hedge select small plants from the nursery.

They will be easier to train into a dense compact hedge. Mark the area to be planted by laying a guideline for the length of hedge. Arrange the pots along the guideline so that mature branches will over-lap slightly. Prepare the soil and plant as usual.

Trimming the top of the shrub after planting will encourage side shoots and dense foliage. This is absolutely necessary when planting Photinias.
A hedge is a lovely addition to the landscape and can solve a variety of design problems.

The few hours you spend pruning will be rewarded with a handsome feature in your garden.