By Marianne Binetti
‘Hino-crimson’ azaleas and ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae are two of the best investments any homeowner can make for a carefree landscape. These two evergreen shrubs are great bargains at your local Lowe’s nursery and are offered in various sizes.
There is a reason they are such a power couple: They are problem-free, adaptable to full sun or partial shade, drought-resistant once established, and have great shapes you can trim or leave natural.
‘Hino-crimson’ azaleas bloom bright red early in spring and, unlike many members of the azalea family, can handle full sun. You pay less than the price of a fast-food lunch for this long-lived evergreen shrub — and it’ll improve your outlook at the same time.
I like to use a row of Hino azaleas to hide the cement foundation in front of a house. Unlike other blooming shrubs, you can shear this azalea into a hedge after it matures to keep it from blocking windows, or to act as a blooming wall to define landscape areas.
Pruning Tip: Prune azaleas if necessary immediately after they flower. Remove 2 to 3 inches of new growth and you encourage solid blooms the following spring. A hedge trimmer works great if you want to shape your Hino into a formal or boxy shape.
Planting Tip: Be sure to loosen the root ball of any rhododendron or azalea by cutting into it in several places with a shovel or trowel. Add fine bark chips (sold as bark mulch at Lowe’s) to the planting hole, and mix the bark half and half with the native soil. Adding bark creates better water retention and air passage.
‘Emerald Green’ arborvitaes grow into tidy columns of living architecture and are versatile and easy to grow. With their good looks and adaptable nature, they win the popularity contest in most neighborhoods.
You can buy small specimens to plant into large pots for a formal look on either side of a front door. Use medium-size arborvitaes as upright “exclamation points.” Or create an instant wall or traffic buffer by planting a row of 6-ft arborvitaes. You’ll likely spend less for a hedge than you will for a fence.
Planting Tip: To more easily slide any large tree or shrub from the plastic nursery pot, lay the container on its side, and use your foot to tamp on the plastic pot in several spots to loosen the root ball. Then slide the shrub out of the pot. Lift it from the root ball — don’t grasp the top of the plant as a handle.
Pruning Tip: Arborvitae grows naturally in a narrow column, but you can make a row of arborvitaes all the same height by removing up to 6 inches of the tops in late spring. Prune on a cloudy day to avoid browning or sunburning the newly exposed foliage.