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Home improvement: Quick landscape fixes for spring

By Darrell Blackwelder

For the Salisbury Post

Most will agree that early spring landscapes have a rather drab appearance. But with warm weather rapidly approaching, an unsightly landscape complexion will change fast.

Many people will be venturing outdoors in hopes of making a change to our suffering landscapes. Below are a few landscape maintenance tips that will provide an almost immediate landscape gratification.

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 of composted materials, high quality bark or pine needles for the biggest impact. As you apply your mulch, take your time to smooth out irregular areas. Avoid using plastic mulch under bark or needles to control weeds. Consider long leaf pine needle mulch rather than regular loblolly or short leaf pine needles. Long leaf pine needles cost more per bale, 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 traditional plantings as well as non-traditional plant materials such as grasses, small trees and vines are easy to implement. These containers can be permanent or rotated around the landscape, with annuals throughout the year providing another method of color and interest.

Add more than color — Some plant materials make a strong design statement due to unusual bark or contorted designs. For example, a contorted filbert (Corylus avellana Contorta) or Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick offers interesting shape and form. Lacebark elm with its interesting bark features also captures interest. Shop for out-of-the-ordinary plant features that may spark interest. Consider an espalier on a blank wall.

Remove ugly plant materials — It’s sad but true in many situations that one ugly plant can ruin a landscape. Some home landscapes would look better if the sick, damaged, disfigured or just plain ugly bedding plants, shrubs or trees were removed altogether. Most 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 of tree or shrub.  If you feel compelled to prune a tree or shrub excessively every year, you have planted the wrong plants.

Record the name and exact color of plant materials — If disease or other catastrophic problems occur and you lose one of a grouping of plants, make sure that you replant the correct type or color of the planting. Often homeowners cannot remember this and replace the original plant now removed with a new color or size. This can quickly dismantle a lovely landscape and cause a cacophony of color that is garish and unsightly. Garden and landscape notes are a must.

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