Trees and Shrubs – Choose the Right Plants

If you have been thinking of adding trees or shrubs to your landscape, now is an excellent time. The cool weather allows plenty of time for roots to grow, which helps the plant survive next summer’s heat. Before you dig a hole, consider one of our favorite bits of gardening advice: “Right Plant in the Right Place”. Your plants will have a better chance of a long, healthy life and you could save yourself hours of work if you do so.

First, take a good look at the site where you wish to plant. Is it sunny all day, or mostly shaded? Is there standing water after a hard rain or is the area extra dry? Choose trees or shrubs that thrive in the conditions you have. A plant that requires full sun will not look its best if it is planted in a shady spot, and plants that dislike “wet feet” will not do well in a soggy corner of the yard. Don’t forget to check the hardiness zones to make sure the plant is recommended for our zone (7 in Durham).

Next, look at the available space in the area. Are there power lines overhead? How far away is your house, fence, sidewalk, large tree, or vegetable garden? Is there enough room for your new plant when it reaches its mature size? Be sure to consider mature width as well as height. Research varieties of plants and pick one that will fit your space. For example, if you like crape myrtles but don’t have room for a 15′ tall tree in the flowerbed in front of your house, choose one of the smaller shrub varieties and let it grow naturally – avoid topping a tree every year just to make it fit a space. With a little planning, the only pruning you’ll have to do is to remove dead, diseased, damaged, or crossed branches on most trees and shrubs.

Notice the plants that are already in place. Will this new plant fit with your landscape style? Does it add something to the overall appearance of your property? The most attractive landscapes tend to have repetition of some elements – a plant, leaf shape, or color, perhaps – and some contrast. Is it the right plant in the right place?

Once you’ve decided on the type and variety of plant you want, it’s time to head to the store. Don’t forget to inspect your plant before you buy. This is not the time to rescue that poor little Charlie Brown Christmas tree in the clearance section – choose an attractive, healthy, vigorous looking plant. Make sure it is free from damage and pests. Examine the roots if possible, and choose a plant with a full root system. Bring your carefully chosen, healthy plant home and enjoy!

-Ann Barnes

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