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Home Improvement: Quick fixes for your landscape

By Darrell Blackwelder

Rowan Cooperative Extension 

Most people will agree that the winter of 2015 has been rather harsh and dull. Most landscapes have a dull and rather drab appearance. However, with warm weather rapidly approaching, your unsightly landscape complexion will abruptly change.

Many will be venturing outdoors in hopes of making a change to their suffering landscapes. With a little planning and strategic placement, our landscapes can begin their change almost overnight, providing an almost immediate gratification. Below are some quick and immediate landscape upgrades:

Add mulch — Adding high quality mulch to the landscape will immediately improve the appearance of your trees, shrubs or flower beds. Apply 4-6 inches high quality bark or pine needles for best results. Take your time to smooth out irregular areas in the mulch. Avoid using plastic mulch under bark or needles to control weeds. You may want to experiment to be sure the bark compliments your colors or plant textures. Consider long leaf pine needle mulch over regular loblolly or short leaf pine needles. The cost per bale is more expensive, but the color is more vivid and the needles last much longer than local pine needles.

Splash of color — Adding color strategically placed at entryways or focal points will improve a landscape within minutes.  Glazed pottery filled with pre-planted color bowls, even hanging baskets, as well as non-traditional plant materials such as grasses, small trees and vines are easy to implement. Rotation of annuals throughout the year as they fade is another method of adding color and interest.

Add more than color — Some plant materials make a strong design statement or add interest with unusual bark or contorted design. The big plant of interest in the Southern Spring Show this spring was the contorted filbert (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) or Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick. Lacebark elm and other interesting bark features also capture interest. Shop for out-of-the ordinary plant features that spark interest. Consider an espalier on a blank wall.

Remove ugly plant materials — It’s sad but true — some landscapes would look better if the sick, damaged, disfigured or just plain ugly shrubs or trees were removed altogether. Many plant materials that are diseased, winter damaged or hacked to death by over-pruning will never recover as a pristine planting. If a plant or shrub has a history of not fulfilling your expectations; take it out. Prune judiciously as overzealous pruning or topping will eventually ruin the appearance and health of a large majority of trees or shrubs.  If you have to prune a tree or shrub excessively every year, you have the wrong plants.

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