Use of shrubs in landscape design

Shrubs suitable for planting on banks or slopes have suckering root systems or branches that root where they touch the ground. Use shrubs tolerant of adverse growing conditions.

A number of shrubs grow and bloom in shade. These shrubs don't require shade--they simply adapt to it better than other shrubs. Many shade-tolerant shrubs grow better when given more light.

Shrubs--especially those with thorns--can be used as a barrier to unwanted foot traffic. But consider the possibility of injury resulting from the use of thorned plants. Always consider future possibilities when selecting a shrub. Pruning, maintaining or removing a planting of thorned shrubs is difficult. An armed barrier plant should not be invasive. Species of rose are used effectively as barrier plants, but they spread rapidly and are difficult to get rid of.

Hedges or screens of shrubs provide privacy. A hedge is clipped or sheared to keep it at some definite width and height. A screen grows to whatever height and width is normal for the plants making up the screen.

Shrubs in screens should have a dense branching habit. Avoid those with a tendency to form large thickets of suckers. When shrubs lose the bottom branches, cut the plants off within a few inches of the ground to rejuvenate the screen. Screens tend to look more natural and require less maintenance than hedges.

Hedges provide privacy and create a thick barrier, but they have a high maintenance requirement. Some hedges need shearing two to four times a year to maintain a manicured appearance. A hedge gains 1 to 2 inches of growth at every shearing. Hedges are sheared to be wider at the bottom to prevent the bottom of the hedge from becoming bare of foliage. Most deciduous hedges are rejuvenated by cutting them back to within a few inches of the ground. Shrubs selected for a hedge must be tolerant of shearing.

Here are the steps to follow when starting a hedge with young plants of deciduous shrubs. At planting, cut the plants to within 2 to 4 inches of the ground; then allow them to grow. The spacing of plants in a hedge depends on the plant used. Clip new growth two to three times during the growing season to shape the hedge. Once the hedge shape is established, fewer shearings are needed. Use string stretched along the hedge at the desired height as a shearing guide to maintain a uniform height. Do not shear the hedge after late summer when the plants are getting prepared for winter.

Shrubs direct traffic around property corners by keeping pedestrians on the sidewalk. Plantings in the front yard should not block drivers' views of the street when cars are leaving the driveway.

Trees growing close together may create a mowing problem. A planting of shade-tolerant shrubs around the trees eliminates the need to mow around the trees, making mowing easier and protecting the trees from lawn mower injury. This type of planting ties the trees together in one mass and works best when the trees are fairly close together.

A foundation planting need not consist of a solid row of shrubs--a few carefully selected and placed shrubs can be more effective. Finding a shrub that will fit in the space allotted to it at maturity should not be difficult.

A number of shrubs can be used as ground covers. Like other ground covers, they should be adapted to conditions found in the growing area.