Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
November, 2006
Regional Report

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When new growth on swamp red maple pops into the gray sky, you know it's winter in our part of the world.

Looking Ahead

Autumn is flying by, and with its departure comes the best time of the year to plant trees and shrubs. Perhaps the biggest factor in choosing which ones to plant is whether they drop their leaves each fall or not. The basic differences between deciduous and evergreen plants are what makes the biggest difference in their impact on your garden.

Trees that drop their leaves are usually colorful beyond green, many flowering wildly before the new leaves sprout and turning vibrant colors in fall. Their "skeleton" is an essential part of the winter garden, when dramatic trunks and bark become the focus. Evergreens, though, offer continuity across the seasons, deliver consistent color year round, and provide winter cover for wildlife. Consider what's important to you, and that will help you make the right choice.

Don't Spare the Shears
Many bad behaviors in adults seem to have their genesis in childhood, and it is no different with badly shaped shrubs and scrawny trees. Pay considerable attention to new shrubs and trees, particularly to their pruning needs. Generally speaking, prune off one third of shrubs and a bit less of trees at planting time. Do this to compensate for the loss of roots to transplant shock, and to establish the shape you want the plant to assume as it grows. Trees may have bare areas on one side of the trunk, or too many branches too close to the ground. Whatever the issue, deal with it now to prevent the need for heavy, sometimes destructive pruning in a few years.

Infant Care
We don't think of trees as babies unless they're 3 inches tall in a pot. But for the first year at least, the woody plants need routine attention. They don't grow up in a year, of course, but that may be enough time to establish a healthy root system and an appropriate canopy they'll need in order to mature successfully.

Water regularly, fertilize a bit more (especially if the year is rainy), and watch the planting spot. If the soil sinks so that the base of the new tree or shrub where the roots begin to flare out is below ground level, consider replanting it. Dig up the sunken one, add soil if necessary, and replant slightly on the high side now that you know that area is spongy. But if the newly planted tree or shrub is lifting out of the soil, perhaps exposing roots at the surface, add more soil to the area and gently tamp the rootball down to help stabilize the plant.

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