Gardening Tips: June 13, 2012

A shrub is a woody plant that usually has multiple stems and is less than 15-feet tall. Trees generally have a single trunk. The woody stems of shrubs distinguish them from perennials which are fleshy and die back to the ground each year. Some shrubs act like perennials sometimes, such as butterfly bush, which dies back partially.

Shrubs may be deciduous or evergreen and are grown for flowers, fruit or color/texture. Many are used to hide foundations while others are grown by themselves away from the house.
Evergreen shrubs are either broad leaved or needle bearing. The most popular flowering broad-leaved shrubs are rhododendrons and azaleas although some azaleas are also deciduous too. In general, deciduous shrubs are hardier than broad-leaved evergreens. Hollies are also broad-leaved evergreens.

Rhododendrons come in all colors from purple to orange, pink, white or red. They generally flower in late spring to early summer. They also come in all sizes from a couple of feet tall to eight-feet tall or more. Most are used near house foundations since all broad-leaved evergreens need some winter protection from wind. They are happiest in partial shade, facing east or southeast and well mulched. Select a cultivar that fits the site and ask how big it gets in five or 10 years. They can be maintained at certain height but the work gets tedious if they want to get tall by their own nature.

They demand acid soil and like lots of peat moss worked into the top- soil. The best organic fertilizer for them is cottonseed meal. Ammonium sulphate may be used as a “quick fix” acidifying chemical fertilizer and aluminum or iron sulphate will lower pH is a hurry.
Broad-leaved hollies will grow into trees if not pruned and both a male and female plant is required if they are to produce red berries. They are grown for their spiny, glossy green evergreen leaves and are often cut back at winter holiday seasons for decorative greens. They like acid conditions also. Hollytone is an excellent fertilizer.

Narrow-leaved evergreens include Junipers, Yews, Mugo pine, Bird’s next spruce, Chamaecyparis and several others. Most are grown for their foliage and often used as foundation plants.