Landscaping lessons

  • **FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES** Flowers are seen at Fordhook Farm, the headquarters for W. Atlee Burpee & Co., Aug. 19, 2008 in Doylestown, Pa. Digital cameras are becoming essential garden tools, producing images that are attractive as well as utilitarian -- used for everything from landscape design to insect and plant identification. This image records the informal mix of flowers growing alongside the veranda walk at Fordhook Farm. (AP Photo/Dean Fosdick) Dean Fosdick—ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • In March, the trees at Brochu Nurseries are still pretty bare, but by early- to mid-April fruit trees will be flowering and leaves will unfurl. Sarah Kinney—Monitor staff

LiveWell editor
Wednesday, April 05, 2017

April showers bring May flowers, but before those flowers arrive, you should plan where those flowers are going to go.

Rob Farquhar, nursery and garden center manager at Brochu Nurseries, has been growing plants for more than 30 years and offered some suggestions on landscaping.

Break down projects: If your yard has no landscaping, tackling the whole thing can be a daunting task. Divide the projects into sections – the sides of the driveway, the front yard, the backyard – and come up with a three- to five-year plan, Farquhar said.

Plan ahead: If you’re planting a row of screening bushes, you can save money and time by thinking about how much they will grow over time. If you know how much a shrub will grow, you can buy less expensive, younger plants and space them farther apart, Farquhar said. When they mature, they will fill the space. If you start with more mature plants, you’ll pay more up front and have to trim them back or move them farther from your home as they grow.

Note the sunnyside: Planting shade trees along the sunny side of your home will help keep your home cool in the summer, Farquhar said. In the winter when they drop their leaves, the sun will be able to warm the house. This can help keep your energy costs down. The Arbor Day Foundation said planting trees on the east, west and northwest sides of your home could reduce summer air conditioning costs by 35 percent.

Diversify: Plants that fail to thrive will likely never make it to sale, however, that doesn’t mean they’re invincible. Diseases and invasive species like Dutch Elm disease, Red Pine Scale and the Emerald Ash Borer can decimate a tree population. If you only have one type of tree in your yard, the loss could make your yard look better bare. Farquhar said that it’s important to mix it up and avoid monoculture so that if one type of tree is infected, you’ll have others that survive.

Buy local: New Hampshire can have some cold winters, so you’ll want to plant varieties that are cold-tolerant. Purchasing from local nurseries will assure that what you buy has already survived a New England winter, Farquhar said. While you can get similar species shipped from southern growers, they could be more stressed by the cold climate.

Stress less: Drought and tough winters can cause stress to trees and shrubs, but plants are pretty hardy and can compensate for periodic challenges. When trees are stressed, they’ll grow smaller internal rings and leaves will be smaller, so they can conserve limited resources. However, they will have heavier fruiting, Farquhar said, as the stress triggers reproductive tendencies. Stress also makes the plants more susceptible to disease. For the most part, the drought hasn’t severely impacted trees and shrubs.

“It’s amazing how tough plants are,” Farquhar said.

Manageable care: Farquhar said those with mobility issues or looking for a low-maintenance yard should consider making garden beds larger so there is less lawn to maintain. Container gardens on decks or patios are also more manageable to maintain.

He recommended varieties of blueberries, called BrazelBerries, that only grow about 2 feet tall and can be planted in a container. They grow a lot of berries.

Container gardens also work well in urban areas.

Time it right: Fruit and flowering trees will begin to bloom in early April, Farquhar said. But for vegetables, despite shifting weather and early warm spells, it’s still best to plant in the ground around Memorial Day.