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Time To Revive

By: Sandra Nelson

We just spent a week in Michigan, where the landscape seemed to be at its peak. The grass was emerald green, the orchards were bursting with fruit and the flower beds were exquisite. 


I was awed by the masses of dark purple coneflower surrounded by dazzling yellow black eyed Susan’s and Cranesbill geraniums in full bloom everywhere. Hydrangeas and Hibiscus were everywhere, with blooms as big as dinner plates. It was absolutely inspiring.


On cloud nine, anxious to get home to my own showplace, I came home to beds full of this: 

dead plaNTS


Granted, much of the blame for my dismal gardens lies on my own shoulders— I forgot to arrange for yard care. Without water, they succumbed to the elements and died.  but then I saw the upside. I unexpectedly had the excuse to try some new ideas in some so-so areas.  Definitely a silver lining!

While most of our views are amazing, a forest view in the center of the city, one is definitely disappointing — it’s a dilapidated fence and overgrown wild vines. fence with vines Throughout the summer I visualized a barrier of green between the neighbor and me. The summer slipped away and though I kept imagining a green backdrop, the bed stayed exactly the same. Now, because of my epic vacation fail, the time has come for a change. 


When the topic of fall planting comes up, it’s usually focused on trees. The vast majority of tree species absolutely thrive when planted in the fall. The soil is nice and warm, prompting strong root growth while fewer hours of daylight combined with cooler nighttime temperatures slow leaf growth, reducing stress on a newly planted tree. 

rainAdding to the list of fall planting benefits, autumn typically has more rainfall, keeping newly planted specimens well-hydrated. 




With the strong focus on tree planting, what is often forgotten is that other garden plants benefit from fall planting too. Most shrubs, for example, tend to do really well when planted in the fall. Just like trees, fall planted shrubs take advantage of the prime conditions and settle nicely into the landscape, providing a welcome definition to the design and giving a scrumptious show the following year.  During the winter months, shrubs add interest to bleak winter views, giving both the eye and the brain something to consider. cardinals in snow

But adding color, form or texture isn’t the only, or even prime reason, to add shrubs to the garden. Shrubs can bring huge benefits to your world. Shrubs help improve air and water quality by filtering pollutants. They add to soil stability and help control erosion. They reduce noise pollution. They add privacy, and so importantly, shrubs, especially native species, provide food and shelter for a plethora of wildlife.        


 With so many gorgeous deciduous shrubs available, it’s easy to head to the garden center and fill your cart with one of everything. Unfortunately, that usually results in lots of dead plants the following spring.  A little research before you head out can help guide you to just the right choices for your yard.  Here are a few things the staff at Embassy Landscape Group suggests that you consider before you buy:

  • What kind of light will the shrub receive? Is it a full sun area - more than six hours of direct sun each day, or is it a partial sun location that receives 4 to 6 hours of sun, but some of that sun is the harsh afternoon sun? Perhaps the location is shaded, getting only gentle morning sun, or are you looking to fill a spot that receives little, if any, direct sun?
  • What kind of wind protection will the shrub have?  For some species, being subjected to hot, drying summer winds or frigid winter gusts is certain death. Others are able to withstand and even thrive in extreme conditions.
  • How much moisture will the shrub need and how much will it actually receive?  Is it within an irrigated bed? Is it hand watered by hose or bucket? Is it reliant on rainfall?  Positioning a shrub with plants that need the same moisture levels can help it get off to a good start. (As an aside, most newly installed plants need daily watering for about two weeks to get them off to a good start.)
  • What kind of soil will the shrub be living in? Are you lucky enough to have a nutrient-rich, loamy soil in which everything grows, cursed with heavy clay that can strangle the most determined plant, or more likely, something in between? (For more information on soil types, read our March 27th article, Digging Into Dirt.) Intentionally matching a shrub to the type of soil it will live in greatly increases the likelihood it will not just survive but will flourish. 

    Once you've analyzed the location, then the fun starts, combing the garden centers for your perfect plants. Since the next four to six weeks are an ideal time to add deciduous shrubs to the landscape, we've put together a selection of our favorites. Not only are they beautiful to look at,  they are also kind to the environment.   To me, that makes them winners!
    Click here to view our suggestions.