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Overcrowded Shrubs

Shrubs that touch wooden structures are troublemakers.

Shrubs that touch wooden structures are troublemakers.

Bushes and shrubs need room to grow, just like other plants. If you buy a young/small version of a shrub, you need to know how big it will get so the home you can give it has the correct sun exposure, moisture, drainage, soil conditions, air circulation, and room to spread out.

The shrub pictured was planted too close to the garage. Both roots and branches are crowded. The branches can be trimmed but the roots will be distorted as they seek out nutrients. Stressed roots can shorten the life of the shrub.

Also, plants should not touch wooden structures. Moisture from rain or leaf evaporation can be absorbed by the wood and crawling insects have a highway to potential shelter. Wood window frames on houses with brick or aluminum siding exteriors can also be damaged. Plants wick water onto the wood long after the rain stops and the sun comes out. Water shortens the life of painted surfaces and wood structures.

Insects show determination in their search for new living space and food sources. There is an ad on TV about how a pest control company stops ants from reaching a roof via tree branches by alternating the chemicals they use. Why not trim the tree so the branches don’t rest on or come close to the roof. Bushes that touch roofs, windows, and outer walls are highways for crawling insects.

The description on the tag for new shrubs includes their height and width at maturity. There may be a range of sizes because bushes grow better in more ideal places. Both the width and shape of the growth is important to the appearance of the plant in the landscape, the harmonious effect of plant combinations, and the space available for the shrub and its neighbors. Make sure that nearby buildings are included in your planning.

After allowing for the mature size of shrubs, a newly planted area may look sparse. Try using annual flowers or potted shrubs until the new plants are big enough to make an impact. Dwarf evergreens, like spruce and boxwood, do well in containers and can winter over if they are moved to a location that receives adequate moisture and protection from winds. The height of the container plus the height of the bush makes them good fill-in candidates. Plastic containers will withstand many a Michigan winter and are easier to move than heavier cement pots.

Mature shrubs add to the value of your home if they are healthy and add beauty to the landscape. Protect your investment in shrubs and they will work hard for you.

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