The New Landscape – By
Jenn Stumer – Appalachian Creations, Inc.
If you have ever started from scratch with a landscape you know how tempting it is to fill in the beds with lots of plants. So many plants look interesting when touring the garden centers that it’s tempting to fit them into the landscape. Just as with so many other things, landscaping with plants ends up becoming a trial and error process. What works for one area might not work for another. A plant doing great for a neighbor down the road might die where you put it. Who knows why plants flourish for some and die in one week for others? Why does one plant out of a group of 3 or 5 not perform as well as the others? Sometimes there just isn’t an explanation. Sometimes plants just die.
Don’t give in to the temptation to plant as much as will fit. If you want your landscape to last for 15-20 years, you will have small plants to start and spaces left in between. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
¨ Shrubs and trees will grow – some quicker than others
¨ Perennials will spread
¨ Grasses will multiply
¨ Trees and shrubs planted too close will grow into each other (or into your house)
Pay attention to plant maturity sizes either by reading the plant tags or doing your own research. Try to envision how the plants will look when they have reached their mature size. Keep spaces open for them to grow into instead of planting them closer together for instant, maximum impact. As the landscape matures, most of the plants will spread and grow into the space left open for them. (Or into the plants next to and around them if they are too close together.) An overloaded landscape will only last a few years before more maintenance is required. The plants will need to be sheared or trimmed to maintain a smaller size or you will find yourself removing some of them to make room. Plant bulbs or annuals in the meantime to help fill the void until the installed plants begin reaching their potential.
Nobody wants an overgrown landscape just a few years after planting. Your landscape should last for a minimum of 15 years before you need to think about removing and replacing plants. A carefully maintained landscape will last longer.
Pruning shrubs and trees becomes a little more important as they grow larger with maturity. You will get more longevity out of your landscape with some regular trimming. We recommend pruning a minimum of once annually after the first 2 years.
Some evergreens are perhaps the hardest to keep manageable. If let go without trimming, the foliage can become too great to cut back aggressively without exposing bare branches and causing unsightly or irreparable damage.
Deciduous plants can be a bit easier to maintain regularly by size. Most of the time with a deciduous plant, you can maintain an overgrowth in size by cutting it down significantly during its dormant season (late October through February.) Otherwise, once annually pruning will be sufficient.
Finally, a note about “No Maintenance.” There simply is no such thing. Landscapes can be designed for low maintenance but the no maintenance is impossible. All plants want some kind of attention at some time or another. Whether it’s just fertilizer or a healthy pruning or a hefty cutting back in the fall. Bed edges will only last for a season or two before the grass begins to encroach into the bed or there is no definition left between the bed and the grass. Yes, you can make a landscape lower maintenance but you cannot make it no maintenance.