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The joy of shrubs

March can be a treacherous month weather wise for outdoor planting and propagating as the chances of frost are still high and the ground is usually too cold (below 7 centigrade) to promote germination. But we gardeners are patient by nature so this is a good time to continue our thoughts on the planning front I covered albeit briefly in my February column.

Shrub borders are not nearly so time consuming as bedding out annuals and tending perennials. I particularly enjoy shrubs for their year-round eye appeal and mix evergreens that remain permanently in leaf with shrubs roughly on 25% evergreens to 75% deciduous basis to provide ideal proportions for creating seasonal variation throughout the year. By blending both, it is easy to create borders that can double as permanent screening and delineate garden boundaries for both privacy and shelter.

As for choice of shrubs that will perform more than once a year –i.e. not just flowers or attractive foliage but other attributes such as fragrance or foliage not forgetting berries and fruits to provide an essential food source four our garden birds.

Amongst my favourites are the strongly scented yellow flowers of the mahonias produced in profusion from midwinter to early spring. For instant impact a small slow growing Japanese Maple Acer makes a fine focal point and the striking red tinted stems of the Dogwood Cornus is another plant to brighten up dreary winter days. Perhaps the most magnetic plant for attracting butterflies has to be the Buddleia. The garden centres are starting to get stocked with pot grown plants so now is a good time to go shrub shopping in readiness for planting out at the end of the month.

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