Shrubs serve landscape well

Allen D. Owings, Young, John, Gill, Daniel J.  |  10/23/2009 6:05:29 PM

Sustainable Landscape News From LaHouse Distributed 10/23/09

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists
Dan Gill, Allen Owings and John Young

Shrubs are important background plants for any home landscape. They have definite growth habits in height, spread and form.

When selecting shrubs, choose ones that ultimately will meet your design requirements. If you have the space for a 3- by 3-foot shrub but plant one that matures at 15 feet in all directions, chances are you soon will be dissatisfied with your selection. Do not attempt to artificially manipulate plant form and size to conform to unnatural shapes. Instead, choose specimens that fit the area.

Shrubs fit into two groups based on their leaf-retaining characteristics. Those that drop all of their leaves at one time of the year (usually late fall) and are bare of leaves for a period are called deciduous plants. Those that drop their foliage throughout the year are called evergreen plants. They never go through a period when they have no leaves. As leaves periodically drop, new growth replaces them. Some plants do not fall into a specific category because leaf retention can be determined by environmental conditions. These groups may be classified as semi-evergreen or semi-deciduous.

The well-designed landscape most often contains both deciduous and evergreen plants. Seasonal change is accented by using both types. Greater contrasts in plant form, texture and color are achieved with a variety of plant types. Another advantage is that by using best management practices to properly place deciduous and evergreen plants in a landscape, you will improve energy conservation in both summer and winter.

Popular shrubs for Louisiana landscapes include azaleas, camellias, sasanqua, hydrangeas, Indian hawthorn, cleyera, ligustrum, dwarf yaupon, holly and gardenias.

October and November are great times to add new shrubs to the landscape. It is best to add shrubs into existing landscape beds.

When planting, follow these procedures for optimal establishment. For container-grown and ball-and-burlapped shrubs, begin by digging a hole at least twice as wide and to the same depth as the root ball. After digging, ensure that about 1 to 2 inches of the root ball is raised above the surrounding soil.

For container-grown plants, use your hands or a knife to loosen any roots that have been matted. Also, cut through any circling roots. Water the plant well to release any air pockets, and use any remaining soil to build a berm around the hole to create a watering basin. If you have a ball-and-burlapped plant, be sure to untie or cut the burlap from the top one-third to one-half of the root ball.

Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is located near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. Go online to Louisiana Yards and Neighborhoods for additional information.

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Editor: Mark Claesgens

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