Shrubs In The Landscape: Out With The Old, In With The New

By Mary H. Dyer | October 23, 2020
by Mary H. Dyer
October 23, 2020

Shrubs in the landscape should accentuate the space, not take from it. Here is my “out with the old, in with the new” approach.

Taking Out Bushes – and Planting New Ones

I’m not sure who landscaped this huge yard before we moved in four years ago, or what they were thinking, but it was a disaster. Apparently, the previous owner thought it would be a good idea to plant a lot of assorted shrubs spaced randomly without any apparent rhyme or reason. Most of the shrubs were dead or dying, so we dug them out.

Arranging shrubs in a garden shouldn’t make your space look messy. Shrubs need growing room, so we eliminated several that had long outgrown their allotted space. I hate boxwood shrubs, and they had no place in a rustic high desert garden, so bye-bye boxwoods. I also dislike arborvitae, but deer love them and the shrubs don’t grow back on deer-munched branches. That leaves arborvitae shrubs with weird little uneaten caps on the top where deer can’t reach. Out they went.

This left a few workable shrubs, including a half-dozen bright crimson barberry shrubs and several lilacs, which are beautiful in early spring. The previous owner also left two healthy Oregon grapes, and we’ve added one more. One so-far unidentified shrub has beautiful apple-like blooms in spring. Deer love it, but it grows back fast. We share.

They also planted several yuccas, which I know aren’t technically shrubs, but I sure do love them. Yucca and Oregon grape are both very deer resistant.

Since we’ve ripped out most of the existing shrubs, we’ve been planting evergreens little by little (they’re expensive), especially in spots that are difficult to maintain. They require almost no maintenance once established, they add welcome color to the landscape all year, and I appreciate the variations in texture, form, and color. Juniper is native here in the high desert, so they work especially well.

So far, the deer haven’t seriously bothered any of our shrubs, but it’s been a hot, smoky summer. The deer don’t look healthy and I’m afraid winter is going to be tough for them. Starving deer will eat almost anything. I’m hoping for the best for the deer, and for my shrubs.

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