- Whether you are choosing trees and shrubs to work as screenings or choosing the right combination of specimen trees and shrubs that will dazzle and create a statement of natural beauty - it is like a journey to the center of one's true self.
Blue Hopsil. Photo provided by Linda Gardens Corps.
Shapes, colors, bark and leaf textures, blooming sequences, favorite memories of seasons that once stirred our senses, and of course just the plain resiliency to the elements are all factors.
Before transplanting and or planting new trees, laying out the bones of the design is essential. It is always best to have your basic plan (the bones) blocked out on paper to refer to when considering the most efficient phase and installation method. Very often you have to consider existing obstacles you may need to maneuver around such as driveways, patios, garden flower beds, pools, etc.
Here on the East End, we have trees and shrubs, both evergreen and deciduous, that thrive and deliver seasonal beauty. Several of these trees and shrubs offer our homes and sometimes more fragile areas on our grounds protection from fierce battering storms and the sea's natural salty and strong winds.
That's why before choosing a tree/shrub/plant it is important to observe the growing conditions of the area where you are planning to plant. Watch the hours of sunlight during the day. The soil type whether it is loamy, sandy or clay is an essential element to know. Beech trees need good drainage to avoid root rot.
Cherry Laurel. Photo provided by Linda Gardens Corps.
In fertilizing there are three basic nutrients: nitrogen (N) phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). They are listed as a set of numbers such as 10-6-4 which translates into percentages of weight. Flowering plants generally need high nitrogen fertilizer such as 5-3-3. If the plant is acid loving, like Hydrangea, Rhododendron or azalea, it is best to use an acid based fertilizer such as 4-6-4. Nursery supply stores also offer Holly Tone and Plant Tone. These ready mixed fertilizers are also very helpful. Just remember (Holly) Tone for evergreens and acid loving plants, and (Plant) Tone for most of your flowering plants.
Basic planting instructions for trees is as follows:
• Make sure the hole is the same depth as the root ball. You can use your shovel some times to take a visual measurement. The width should be two to three times the width of the root ball.
• Mix the soil that was removed with planting mix. If you are planting in a dry area, there is a product called Soil Moist polymers you might want to try.
• The Burlap question - there are two different schools of thought here. Some say do not remove the wire baskets or the burlap. From my experience, my crews remove all wire baskets, and only if the burlap is of the bio-degradable type one can choose to leave it gently opened at the base of the tree and loosen all around the ball.
• Set plant /tree in center and back fill two-thirds hole with soil. Make the soil firm by stepping down onto the soil around the rootball. This is the time to roll back the burlap.
• Finish filling the soil in. The grade and soil should be level.
• Build a well around the edge of the hole, by packing and shaping the soil to contain water.
• Fill the well at three times with water so that the soil around the roots becomes moist.
• If you are dealing with a large amount of clay, the root ball should be planted slightly higher than the surrounding soil level. Then you should mound the soil around the rootball.
Old-fashioned Weigela. Photo by Linda Ardigo
Transplanting trees is a serious job. The larger the tree, the more you should consult a professional with experience and the necessary equipment - such as a fork lift, for efficient and safe transportation and expert planting. You also want to be sure your soil is of the correct balance needed and or fortified for the newly transplanted tree. A most important issue that does occasionally come back to haunt you is if the tree was planted too deep, and then possibly mulched too high. All these factors are most important to pay attention to for healthy tree growth.
Evergreens, such as Cryptomeria (Japanese Cedar), Eastern White Pine, Leyland Cypress (extremely fast growing), Arborvitae (Elegans or Nigra), work perfectly for our surroundings. Some of the more dramatic evergreens like Hollywood junipers and Colorado/Hopsii Blue Spruces are very effective esthetically when any of these trees are artistically positioned and in the right conditions. With proper sun/shade/soil requirements they can create a natural free flowing screening for one's property. Clustering evergreens or planting them along with complimentary flowering shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses also adds to the drama.
Yaku Princess Rhododendron. Photo by Frank Roccanova
There are endless ways to develop one's landscape surrounds. First, fully lay the bones of your landscape/garden area. Along with any hardscaping, this early phase should include the any transplanting of existing trees and shrubs and also the planting of any new trees and shrubs. Evergreen shrubs such as yews, junipers, Cherry Laurel, ilex (holly) and boxwood help us define the bones and anchors of the design plan. During the winter months they deliver year-round interest and dimension and even color to our sometimes bare looking gardens and foundations.
Ligustrum Ovalfolium (Privet) especially California Privet is a wonderful hedge with fragrant white flowers, June through July. Privet is a favorite here and often used for perimeter screening, and interiorly as a wonderful back drop to any garden design, cottage or formal.
Deciduous flowering shrubs such as Viburnum, Weigela, Spirea, Beach Plum, Lilac and Quince all intergrate beautifully as well.
Mistral Azalea. Photo by Linda Ardigo
Flowering shrubs like Azalea and Rhododendron are signature shrubs here in the Hamptons. They are hardy and their late spring, brilliant blooms elevate our spirits as a beacon of Summer.
Three favorites I use frequently are: Delaware Valley White (for a more formal look) and Yaku Princess Rhododendron (Sea Shell Pink). Their leaves are very dark green and shiny. The under leaf if soft brown, similar to a Magnolia Grande Flora leaf.
If you have a sapling (young tree), of course planting is fairly simple. It is always best to plant the sapling in a microclimate area. Find a location that will protect the new tree from strong winds and any vulnerability to hungry deer. Staking the tree for extra support is always a good idea. During the fall clean-up have the new tree gently wrapped with burlap. The burlap helps to protect the new tree from scavenging deer and winter's harsh cold winds.
In the past I have had great satisfaction in digging saplings that had rooted themselves near their parent tree. One in particular is a wonderful tree, Styrax, 'Japanese Snowbell'. It went from just a twig six years ago, to being planted, and nurtured in my garden in Sagaponack. And then on to being transplanted four years later at my niece's home in Westhampton. Today the tree blooms profoundly and is over nine feet tall. It gives forth the most astonishing little white star like flowers to be seen from under the tree's canopy.
Styrax Snowbell in Bloom. Photo by Linda Ardigo
They say that this is a tree most appreciated when lying under it during the tree's, (around two to three weeks) early summer blooming season. Hence, the Styrax Snowbell tree is also wonderful aside a pond or patio.
If trees and shrubs are bagged and balled planting can happen pretty much throughout the season. However, the best time to dig and transplant any deciduous trees or shrubs is when they are dormant. Early spring, late Autumn (November). Spring blooming trees and shrubs should be dug and transplanted in autumn. Always remember the importance of soil aggragates - organic compost, peat and mulch.
Your investment in landscaping should be attended to with the proper maintenance and irrigation. Newly planted trees need saturation and regulated watering according to climate and rainy conditions. Look around to your local surroundings and see what trees and plant materials work best in those landscapes. Observe and inquire at your nurseries and also experiment with mail order catalogs for some exotic fun.
Gardening and connecting with nature is so rewarding. Being part of the solution, and not the problem is the way to do it. By replenishing and nurturing, sharing and by making your surroundings more beautiful has to be one of life's greatest gifts.