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Gardening People: Luvverly shrubbery.

Byline: CHARLES LYTE

EAT lawns, spectacular flower displays and a thriving vegetable plot are what all gardeners strive for, but no-one's patch is complete without trees and shrubs.

These are the plants that can make or break a garden and now is the ideal time to get them in. There are still a couple of months or so to get bare- rooted trees and shrubs planted, and even container-grown plants will be all the better for being in the ground before the spring arrives.

What you plant depends not only on how big your garden is, but what conditions prevail. If you are planting in a damp area, for instance, you will be fine with all the willows, our native silver birch (Betula pendula), the lovely river birch (Betula nigra), and snowy mespilus (Amelanchier lamarckii), which, along with my favourite magnolia, is one of the great flowering trees.

But if you try the box elder (Acer negundo, left), ericas or the pink flowered Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum), which need dry acid soils, you will likely have a flop on your hands.

Flowering Japanese cherries - which will look so spectacular in a few months - mountain ashes (Sorbus), lilac, and the lovely butterfly bush (Buddleya davidii) do brilliantly in chalky soil. Holly, elder, eucalyptus and laburnum flourish in clay.

Rhododendrons, azaleas and all the ericaceous plants must have an acid soil and ericaceous compost.

Even if conditions are freezing now and certainly not ideal for the actual planting, you can still get ahead of the game by preparing the planting spot. And whichever tree or shrub you choose, careful preparation is the secret of success.

Dig out a hole that is twice the diameter of the spread of the roots, getting rid of any perennial weeds like nettles, thistles, dandelions and docks, and also any large rocks that could block new root growth. But it's wise to retain some of the smaller stones in the excavated soil to provide adequate drainage, and if the planting area is prone to water- logging you should work gravel into the bottom of the hole and also mix more with the soil.

Young plants need a steady supply of nutrients to build up a sound root system and produce strong new growth. So mix plenty of good organic material - compost or manure, bone, blood and fish meal - thoroughly into excavated soil.

Farmyard manure is the ideal, but if you use stable manure make sure that it is well rotted otherwise you may well introduce weed seeds into the site.

Only plant when the ground is frost-free, and set support stakes in the planting hole ahead of the plant to avoid any root damage by hammering it in after planting.

To ensure success, it is vital to keep the plants well watered, particularly during dry spells. A thick mulch of rotted organic material will help enormously.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Feb 3, 2002
Words:479
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