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Quick Landscaping Tips
by Lesley Reynolds
March 11, 2001

Moving into a brand new home is exciting, but landscaping that empty yard can be daunting task, especially for those who are new to gardening. In addition, most of us don't want to wait years for the pleasures a mature garden brings: shade, privacy, and attractive plantings. Don't despair! If you start in the spring, you can transform that dusty, windswept yard into a garden you'll enjoy this summer.
If you don't already have a lawn, lay down sod for an instant green carpet wherever you need turf. Once this is done, select and prepare the areas where you wish to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials. Since developers rarely leave enough topsoil in new subdivisions, you will likely need to bring in a load of good soil to top up beds to a depth of 20-30 cm (8-12 in.). Before you plant, dig in compost, peat moss, or grass clippings to improve soil quality.
Landscaping a garden with trees, shrubs, and perennials is an expensive proposition, and most homeowners will wish to add a few each year as the budget permits. However, adding a few this summer will give your garden a great head start. 
To avoid unnecessary expense and labour, it's wise to consider how you intend to use your garden space before you plant. Do you require a children's play area that is easily visible from the kitchen window? Have you always wanted your own home-grown vegetables? Is your heart set on a pond with a trickling stream?
Plant the big stuff first. Trees are much less portable than perennials or small shrubs, so make sure you know their mature height, spread, and growth habits. Many trees, such full-sized Colorado spruce, are much too large for the average lot. Dwarf cultivars of spruce and pine, and small to medium-sized deciduous trees, such as rosybloom crabapples, are better suited to most urban gardens. Columnar cultivars of trees, such as the Swedish columnar aspen, Populus tremula 'Erecta', take up little space, but lend height and add privacy to a garden. Many small trees thrive in on the prairies; local gardening books, garden centres, and tree nurseries are all good sources of information. Avoid planting trees and shrubs helter skelter in holes cut in the lawn. You will achieve a much more pleasing and natural appearance by planting in linked beds, where plants complement each other.
For a garden that looks fabulous this summer, fill in around new trees with shrubs and fast-growing perennials, including lots of groundcovers. (However, avoid planting goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegata') as a groundcover in flower beds-it will overrun everything else, and is very difficult to eradicate.) The plants you choose will depend on your personal preferences and the amount of sun and shade in each area of the garden. Be aware that these conditions will change as you garden matures. Sun-loving plants may need to be relocated in three or four years as trees grow and the amount of shade increases.
Plant vines on fences or trellises to a green curtain of shade and privacy before trees and shrubs mature. Many vines also produce splendid blooms. For quick results choose fast-growing annual vines such as canary bird vine, morning glory, cup-and-saucer vine, black-eyed Susan, or scarlet runner beans. You will need to provide support for all of these vining plants. If you wish to establish perennial vines, there are many glorious species and cultivars of clematis that will reward you year after year with fabulous flowers. Choose clematis with care; some are not suitable for the harsh prairie climate. 
Annuals are the best choice for a burst of instant colour. Mass planting has much more impact than single rows, so plant large groups of a particular annual. Instead of trying a bit of everything, buy plenty of a few favorite varieties to fill in empty spaces in flower beds. Containers of annuals are indispensable in any garden, but their convenience and portability makes them an ideal choice for new gardens. Move them around to fill in vacant spaces or to add colour after perennials finish blooming. Herbs and most vegetables will grow well in large containers, so you can still enjoy a kitchen garden even if you haven't had time to dig up a vegetable or herb garden.
Finally, plant plenty of bulbs this fall. Next April your new garden will be filled with tulips, daffodils, and a myriad of delightful small flowers, a great start to the gardening season. 

Email: reynolds@ab.imag.net
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