Buying Trees and Shrubs
Trees and shrubs are a great way to add real value to your landscape. Because they have a lifespan that can potentially outlast you and your house, it pays to shop smart. A failure to plan can spell disaster down the road-for your trees and shrubs, and for your pocketbook.
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- DON'T buy trees and shrubs on an impulse. Buying a tree or shrub because it's on sale, because you love its show-stopping flowers, or because you think you will be able to find a place for it when you get home, is a bad idea. Trees and shrubs are not bedding plants. If they fail, you're not out the price of a tomato plant, you're out serious money.
- DO take time to do your homework before you head to the store. Make your selections based on budget, site location, future growth, and year round suitability. Read up on the time and care required to keep the tree or shrub you're thinking of buying healthy (pruning, disease prevention, pollinating partners, etc.)
- DON'T rely solely on salespeople for information. While sales people can be a great source of information, their job is to sell you plants. If you don't shop as an informed consumer, it's much easier to be seduced by a good sales pitch.
- DO gather your information from multiple sources. This is not a concern if you already have a good relationship with the owner of your local nursery, but in larger cities, you may not know the person you're doing business with. Scan reference books and talk with garden experts from your county extension agency. Online garden forums are a great place to ask gardeners from your area about their experiences.
- DON'T choose price over quality. Once you factor in the price it costs to remove trees and shrubs that have failed, the great price you paid for them no longer seems like such a bargain.
- DO choose specimens based on overall health, and avoid specimens that show signs of injury or disease. Healthy trees and shrubs have strong stems or trunks, symmetrical growth, and shows signs of new growth. A tree's bark should be undamaged. Its trunk should thicken as it tapers toward the roots. Look for branches that are evenly spaced that have not been pruned at the tips.
- DON'T take a short-sighted approach to future maintenance.
- DO match trees and shrubs to your site. On average, people move to a new home every seven years. Take into account future growth so that the trees and shrubs you select now don't outgrow their welcome and cause problems for future owners.
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If you're thinking about adding some shrubs to your landscape, early fall is a great time for planting container-grown shrubs. The combination of warm soil and autumn rains encourages rapid root growth and cuts down on your need for watering.
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