Snow, rain, 34-degree temperature, 75-degree temperature. Is spring here, yet? Probably not. But it is time to start planning for spring? Spring is the time to begin working on those things that need to be changed, cleaned up and added new. Now is the time to asset the landscape and make plans for the new growing season.
To begin re-landscaping a garden, the homeowner has to take a close look at what is already in the landscape, what were the problem areas and then develop a plan for improvement. Once the gardener has a plan in place, small adjustments every year or two will keep the gardener from having to start all over.
In evaluating the existing garden, the gardener may find that some plants didn’t perform as well as they have in the past. One of the biggest changes that can creep up silently in a landscape is the growth of trees and shrubs. They not only grow taller and larger, but they can dramatically influence what can and cannot grow under or around them, mainly from shade.
As plants begin to green up the gardener can visibly see overgrown, over mature or misplaced plants. These problems could be that plants have grown out of their allotted space, may not be performing as anticipated or water requirements are just too great to continue keeping the plants. Whatever the problem, the gardener will have to add new plants, remove old ones or change their maintenance practices.
In overgrown areas, trees can be trimmed to thin out branches and allow more filtered light through to the ground. In extreme cases, such as too many trees planted close together, removal of some of the trees may be the answer.
Overgrown shrubs can also be trimmed back or removed entirely if no longer desirable. As much as it hurts emotionally, and as much as it can be visibly unattractive for a while, a severe trimming can often rejuvenate old woody shrubs. Fall is the best time to do severe trimming, early spring trimming can still be performed with little damage occurring.
When selecting new trees, consider the function it is intended to serve. Large trees with spreading canopies such as Caddo maple, burr oak and red oak, make good shade trees, but can provide a lot of shade in a small area. Trees that are smaller and have high ornamental value, such as redbud, crape myrtle, and yaupon holly can be planted in smaller areas or used as an ornamental accent plant. Other interest trees planted for special interest can include: Ginkgo, bald cypress, golden rain tree and ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ holly.
Shrubs are easy to incorporate into the landscape as long as their eventual height and width are taken into account. The gardener should not try to fill up the space with shrubs for an immediate look. Although it will look good during the first season, over time the area will be overcrowded within a few years. Place the shrubs where they will create the best effect when they are mature. Any gaps can be filled in with mulch, or temporary plantings of annuals, perennials and bulbs.
Shrubs can also be planted alone, as accent plants, as hedges and borders, often to form a background for other garden plants. Although the shrub border can be composed of mixed plants, better results can be achieved by grouping several of a given plant together or by repeating a particular shrub elsewhere in the border. Mass planting of the same shrub can also be attractive.
The best adapted landscape plants will perform only as well as the landscape maintenance practices it receives. Correct and timely fertilizing, watering, mowing, pruning, weeding and pest control will ensure the landscape will perform properly. Remember, the best maintenance schedule is prevention rather than remediation.
Jim Coe lives in Lawton and writes a weekly gardening column for The Lawton Constitution.