Two Hour Gardening Project: Stage 18 Choosing Shrubs for the Garden

The fall is rapidly giving way to winter, and that can be an exciting time for gardeners – a time for browsing through catalogues and round garden centres. Look particularly for shrubs, they’re a great investment. Don’t buy everything in sight: check eventual height and spread: check hardiness suitability for your area; check soil suitability too. Our choice is suitable for most gardens in most areas. Check with a local nurseryman if in doubt.

Needs list: 6 assorted flowering shrubs.

Time budget: 5 hours in 2 weeks

Flower of the Fortnight

Hypericum patulum, St. John’s wort, is ideal for modern small gardens.

Of compact habit, reaching only 3 or 4 ft., it bears huge rich golden yellow flowers from high summer through late fall. These are followed by bright red fruits. It’s semi- evergreen, only losing its leaves in hard winters. It thrives in almost any soil (not waterlogged ones) and does well in poor soils. All the attention it needs is a light pruning

Late November weather/soil

Frosts should be hitting hard in northern districts by now, but may not have reached southern districts yet. A good time to catch up on construction work if you’ve got behind – patio, trellis, drainage -things like that. Heavy snow can crush many plants, snap boughs. Shake it off the branches.


Cut down your dahlias to within 4 in. of the base. Lift them carefully from the soil, taking care not to damage the tubers; like don’t stick the lifting fork through them.

Leave tubers to dry in a cool, airy place for 2 weeks, then rub the mud off. Check each tuber to make sure it is firm. Throw away any that are mushy. Store firm tubers in a tray packed in dry moss peat, leaving the crown of each tuber above the peat. Keep them in a cool, dry, dark, frost-free place till spring.

Clean and store support stakes and/or canes. Cut dead chrysanthemum tops off to 1 in. from ground level. Leave in the ground over winter.

Meet the last in our list of garden friends:

(1) the Ichneumon fly – a delicate, lacy bug – and a parasite on caterpillars. Does good work keeping caterpillar population down.

(2) the caddis fly; its larvae feed on aphids. Never destroy these two thinking they’re enemies. If you’ve just sown a lawn don’t water it: it’ll pan the soil.

Time to clean up the mower, grease it, put it in storage for the winter.

Project work; a selection of shrubs; rockery/rock garden stone collecting

Shrubs have a place in every garden. Use them with care, as accent plants here and there, not everywhere. A garden full of shrubs and nothing else is dull for 9 months out of every 12. A garden needs plants of every type – shrubs, trees, annuals, biennials, perennials, bulbs – the lot. Shrubs offer the widest range; plant them for flower, fruit, autumn colour, because they grow narrowly upright or because they sprawl across the ground. Buy them for their berries or their coloured leaves.

Most shrubs come in containers these days. Store in shaded, sheltered place if the ground is frozen or too wet to plant in – as for tree (Stage 13). Prepare a hole 2 ft. across 18 in. deep, make a mound of soilless growing mix, remove shrub from container, position on growing mix dome, backfill with same mix, firming every 3 or 4 in. Finally firm, soak, mulch. Prune any broken twigs.

Berberis thunbergii has bright orange flowers, good autumn colour. Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea – same plus bronze leaves -a favourite with flower arrangers. Chaenomeles ‘Rowallane’ – red flowers before leaves in spring, yellow fruits, good against a wall, leggy, spready in the open. Mahonia aquifolium – evergreen leaves of fine, sculptural shape, turn crimson through winter, yellow flowers, winter, blue fruits spring. Viburnum opulus ‘Compactum’ – white-flowers, showy red berries, compact. Dwarf evergreen azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias strictly for acid soils. See if your neighbours grow them. Or grow in containers filled with peat only. Spacing: check catalogues for ultimate size. Plant so branches will meet, tallest at back of border, smallest at the front.

Next think ahead to your rockery/rock garden. Keep your eyes open. Collect interesting stone, pieces of masonry, moulding from demolition sites rocks from quarries, hillsides.

24. August 2011 by admin
Categories: 2 Hour Garden, Gardening Ideas | Tags: , | Comments Off on Two Hour Gardening Project: Stage 18 Choosing Shrubs for the Garden


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