Just say no to donuts


Do you have a few trees in the yard but never really know what to grow under them? Maybe you have tossed the ring of pavers or bricks around in a perfect circle and filled it with plants or mounded it with mulch?

I think it is time to think outside of the the brick ring.

Flowerbeds that ring your trees make some landscapers roll their eyes. They call it donut landscaping because it looks like donuts floating around the yard.

Roots from the trees don’t like this shape because they try to ruin your perfect circle by pushing roots up through the soil and moving the pavers.

Volcano mulching around the base of the tree is when you just dump bags of mulch around the trunk and it looks like its namesake. This cone of moisture can bring on disease problems at the base of your tree and also make a great house for little critters such as mice to hide and nibble on the bark.

Shady solution

Before you dismantle the donut ring or the mulch volcano, let’s do some planning. Since this flowerbed is in the shade, pick plants that grow well in partial sun, not full sun.

That might sound obvious, but if you look at other landscape problems, you will see that the struggling plant needs more sun or shade and was just planted in the wrong spot.

Don’t be afraid to extend your flowerbed around the base of the tree to include shade-loving ground covers and perennials or shorter shrubs that don’t need direct sun.

It doesn’t have to be in a round shape, either. Get a little creative and use your garden hose to lay out a new landscaping line. Just be sure you build something that will be easy to move around with your mower.

Annuals like impatiens, coleus, artillery plant, perilla and wishbones will make good understory plantings and thrive in the shady conditions.

Smaller shrubs like Russian cypress, fothergilla, and Daphne and Oregon grape holly will work well. Pick shade-loving perennials like foamflower, pigsqueak Bergenia cordifolia, wild ginger or variegated bugloss. And don’t forget the hundreds of different types of hosta that you can start collecting.

No donuts

Use your mower as a landscape guide. Go around the house and drive or push your mower around your trees with wider, flowing curves and get rid of the tight circles, changing the donuts into something that might look more like a fritter.

This will give you a larger flowerbed and you can build other small planting beds at different levels. Try a combination of Limelight hydrangea or Little Henry Virginia Sweetspire to go between a tree and the house to soften the corner of a structure, filling in with shorter perennials and groundcovers.

A line of fothergilla, fountain grass and ground covers look nice under your Kousa Dogwood or other medium height tree.

Just leave the donuts for breakfast and volcanoes for vacations.