The Q&A Archives: Planting for my Garden

Question: What type of plant orshrub could I plant that doesn't requiring alot of trimming or maintanence. I have begonias and pansies planted. Now, I need some greenery. Any advice?

Answer: There are so many possibilities and so many conditions in front yards that no one shrub is going to be perfect for every situation. I think what most people are looking for in their shrubs, though, is something that is easy to care for.

Evergreen shrubs are the perfect combination of easy good looks and minimum care. They look good year round, which is perfect for something that's in your front yard where everyone can see it all the time.

Though they're called "evergreens," boxwood shrubs grown in the sun will actually turn orange in the winter. Other suggestions are evergreen azaleas. Azaleas are one of the stars of the shady garden, producing beautiful and bright flowers in the spring. The rest of the time they look nice, too, with small, waxy, dark green leaves. The azaleas are a little more work than the boxwood; water them through the summer and apply acidified fertilizer once a year.

Another good choice for shade is hydrangeas, which have big puffballs of flowers in the late spring or early summer (some also bloom in fall). Hydrangeas are fun because the plants that bloom pink or blue can actually bloom different colors depending on the condition of the soil. A low pH (acid soil) makes blue blooms, while a very alkaline soil makes hydrangeas bloom pink. Even if you buy a plant that is supposed to bloom the other color, the pH of your soil may give the plant other ideas. (Like azaleas, not all hydrangeas are evergreen, so be sure to check the label.)

Holly shrubs are another good choice, and they make a nice hedgerow if you have an expanse of house that you want to cover up. They'll need pruning to stay looking nice and to keep their shape, but they are worth it because they make these beautiful, large, lush shrubs that have berries in the winter, which bring color to the yard and attract birds.

Leaving the world of evergreens, for an informal sunny garden, butterfly bush is a great choice. These shrubs have huge cones of colorful flowers that bloom in high summer and are very attractive to butterflies (and bees, so be careful planting these if someone in your household is allergic to beestings). Some varieties of butterfly bush are huge, growing up to six feet tall and five or six feet wide. If you don't have room for that kind of commitment, smaller hybrids are now available.

Hope these suggestions are helpful.

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