July 18, 2014 at 1:00 am


Primp garden to show off plants at their finest

Foliage turns yellow as the Spirea japonica 'Double Play Gold' shrub ages. (Proven Winners)

Now is the perfect time to fine-tune the landscape. You might be surprised how selective pruning can improve the look of your garden.

Begin by viewing with fresh eyes. Too often we just focus on the big picture. While looking out my office window the other day, I noticed one of my “Big” begonias looked as if it had hardly grown since I planted it several weeks ago. On closer inspection I found it was almost swallowed up by a handsome large leaf, lime green hosta just behind it. Moving the plants is not an option for me right now, but I realized snipping off just two of the Hosta leaves would visually free the begonia and do no harm to the other plant. A quick fix indeed and a big improvement in the view out my window.

There are times when simply shortening or removing a limb from a shrub or cutting a few leaves from a plant two can change the focus or refine a design.

You may find you have a few holes in the landscape due to loss of plants over the winter. Rather than replacing them with the same old, same old, look for something new and colorful.

One of my favorite shrubs is Spirea japonica ‘Double Play Gold.’ In spring, new growth emerges a glowing orange red — a feast for the eyes when I am so color starved. As the foliage ages, it turns to yellow, but before I have a chance to get bored, it covers itself with clusters of bright pink flowers. I found that if I snap off a few leaves along with the spent blossoms, the new growth will again come in that lovely orange red and it re-blooms. The second act and third acts are not as showy as the first, but it’s worth the effort. This 2-by-3-foot shrub is a perfect way to add color to a mixed border or in front of a hedge.

If you’d like to add some color and interesting texture to your shade garden, Aralia ‘Sun King’ with its electric yellow compound foliage is the perfect choice. Growing to 3 feet by 3 feet, this magnificent perennial looks for all the world like a showy little shrub. If given some sun, the leaves will remain yellow all summer — in shade it will age to chartreuse. Its inconspicuous white flowers attract honeybees, and when pollinated, they produce purple berries.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question, go to Yardener.com and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at http://detroitnews.com/homestyle.