Flowering Shrubs in the Flower Garden

One of the simplest ways of getting a beautiful effect is by the use of the flowering shrub. In the long run it is one of the cheapest ways also, for the flowering shrub border will be down for years, and needs comparatively little looking after. If I were asked for the definition of a shrub I think I should call it a woody plant that doesn’t form a single clean trunk. A tree has a single clean trunk but a shrub does not. Some shrubs, however, like the holly, will grow into trees if they are given the chance. Too often the beginner only thinks of evergreen shrubs and so the shrub border becomes dark, dull and unattractive. Many of the Victorian gardens and many of our town gardens now have shrub borders of this kind.

I concentrate here on those shrubs which will make the garden more pleasant by their colour and form. In some cases it will be the flowers themselves. In other cases the colour of the bark in the winter, and yet in others the autumn tints of the foliage, or the beautiful colours of the fruits or berries. It is possible to have colour in a shrub border almost all the year round, as I will show.

It is as well to study the likes and dislikes of certain shrubs because to ignore completely some definite preferences is to court failure. For instance, the heathers and heaths hate lime and will not grow on chalky land. The rock roses and brooms insist on being in full sunshine. The rhododendrons and azaleas dislike lime and do best with some protection from full sunshine. On the whole, shrubs will grow in almost any ground, providing it has been well worked.

Wherever shrubs are to be planted, the ground may be shallowly forked and good compost incorporated at the same time. A shrub border will be down for years and it is well worth while spending time preparing it. Do the very shallow forking a month or two before planting, to allow the ground to settle, and when planting make sure that the shrubs are in firmly. After planting and firming level, cover the bed with a 12-mm (lin) thick layer of powdery compost or medium grade sedge peat. This will prevent the annual weeds from growing and will provide a mulch which will conserve the moisture.

The great difficulty in planting shrubs is that they are usually obtained when small, and if they are put in at their correct distance apart, the shrub border has a very bare look about it for the first four or five years. It is necessary therefore to adopt one of two customs : (1) To plant up the border twice or three times as thickly as necessary and then dig out the shrubs in excess at the end of the four-year period. Or (2) To use the spaces between the small shrubs for growing annuals or biennials – the better of the two methods, on the whole.

If the border is to be planted up thickly, it is possible to dig up and transplant the shrubs not required to another part of the garden years later. This should be done just after the leaves fall in the autumn while the soil is still warm, though it is possible to do it during any period when the weather is open in the winter. Evergreen shrubs are best transplanted before activity ceases in the early autumn or activity has started in the late spring. When hollies, for instance, are transplanted in midwinter, they invariably die, yet shrubs obtained from some of our best nurseries, with a large ball of earth at their roots, will transplant quite successfully almost any time in the winter months.

Always dig the shrubs up with as big a root system as possible and with as great a ball of soil as possible, com-mensurate with carrying or wheeling the shrubs from one part of the garden to another. See that the hole intended for their reception is large enough to enable the roots to be spread out evenly to their full extent. When covering up, fine soil should be worked in among the finer roots and all soil immediately in contact with the root system should be trodden firmly. Try to plant at the same depth as the shrub was growing previously. Shrubs have a habit of dying if they are planted too deeply Tasteful Planting

Take as much trouble and thought with the arrangement of a flowering shrub border as with a herbaceous border. Remember that the shrubs are going to grow to a good height after a time, and because many of them are so large, there will not be room in a small garden for groups of a particular variety. One large shrub will take the place of a group. Arrange the shrub border so that the colour extends over as long a period as possible. See that the dwarfer shrubs are to the front and the taller ones to the back and aim at having an even distribution of colour right along the border if possible. Keep in your mind’s eye the needs of the different shrubs, the ones that will appreciate a little shade, and the others that insist on the full sunshine. Plan the colour effects in such a manner that they do not clash one with another.

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