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Northern Gardening: Plan early for tree, shrub planting

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Although we are in the depths of winter experiencing extreme cold warnings, it is not too early to think about your yard and to plan some additions or changes.

As you look out the window at your personal landscape, do you see anything that holds your interest for a few seconds? Are there any trees or shrubs adding some visual interest, or is it just a uniform blanket of snow?

Trees and shrubs are the backbone of any garden, no matter what size the yard. They add some vertical interest in all four seasons, and attract nesting birds in spring and summer.

Depending on the plants you choose they can provide a variety of benefits: flowers in spring or summer, colourful leaves in summer and fall, edible fruit, fruit and seeds for birds, and interesting bark or coloured twigs in winter.

Some trees and shrubs will provide several of these benefits in one plant. Evergreens add a patch of green in the white winter garden.

An example of a multipurpose ornamental tree is the crabapple. The flowers can be pink or white, depending on variety. Many have leaves that may start out green but soon change to a shade of purple. Some have fruit suitable for eating or making jam or jelly, while others bear tiny fruit appreciated by a variety of birds in fall and winter.

Purple-leaved chokecherries also produce showy white flowers and berries for the kitchen or for birds.

Amur maple produces small, white, scented flower clusters in spring, showy seed clusters in late summer, and brilliant red or orange fall foliage.

Among shrubs there are several varieties of dogwood, some with variegated green and white leaves. They all have white flowers and produce white berries – although only for the birds – purple fall foliage, and red branches for winter interest.

Another shrub with showy red branches is a rose named Therese Bugnet, which has lovely, fully double pink flowers from spring to fall.

Ninebark shrubs come in a variety of foliage colours from golden to reddish to purple and almost black. They also produce white or light pink flower clusters in spring and showy reddish seed capsules in the fall.

There is a tree or shrub suitable for any yard, but it is important to select the right tree or shrub for the conditions, and to place it in the best location. The next article will discuss how to determine what and where to plant in your landscape.

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