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Spring cleaning and preparing planting beds;

Before all the plants leaf out, it is the best time to clear away all the dead debris from the base of perennial plants, grasses and shrubs. Grasses should be trimmed back to 4-6 inches from the ground and summer flowering shrubs should also be cut back at this time. Removing 1/3 of the branches from trees and shrubs will allow for shaping and ensure air circulation, cutting down on problems with insects and diseases.

Late April, before all the plants bud out is also the best time of year to spray trees and shrubs with horticultural oil. This is a non- toxic oil based insecticide that will smother the eggs of aphids and scale insects that become pest problems later in the season. It also stops the spread of white fly insects on ivy vines.

Cleaning up all leaf litter and amending the soil with fresh compost and bark will help the plants to thrive. At this time of year adding bone meal around trees and shrubs will provide extra nutrients, especially to bulbs and other early flowering species.

Adding colour and texture to planting beds and containers

Planting season is just around the corner, so now is the time to plan some additions to your perennial beds and replant your containers. Decide on a theme and go from there.

For a natural look, and lower maintenance, choose long flowering perennials mixed with grasses. The grasses will retain their structure throughout the year, adding interest during the winter. There are many to choose from and most will require full sun for the best growth.

Perennials can be planted in containers and then replanted at the end of the season into your perennial bed. This is not only economical, but perennials add unexpected, interesting accents to your containers. Echinacea (cone flower) blooms in mid summer and attracts birds and bees to the garden. They come in many colours and are easy to grow.

Monarda didyma (tbee balm) is another long blooming perennial that tolerates sun and shade conditions. It comes in a variety of colours and heights and as its name suggests attracts bees and other pollinators to the garden.

For a more exotic, tropical theme there are many perennials to choose from. An interesting accent perennial is the Palladia Iris. The flowers are stunning in the spring and the sword like leaves look great throughout the season.

Trailing plants such as ivy and creeping jenny, combined with tropicals such as canna lilies and begonia create lush-looking planters for semi- shaded areas. Shady light conditions allows for beautiful combinations of hostas and violas, which can be transplanted into a shady planting bed later in the season.

Annuals supply bursts of colour throughout the season and a mixture of grasses, perennials and annuals throughout planting beds and in containers provides the ideal mix.

Countryside Tree Farms