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Rick Cordrey, RSC landscaping

Rick Cordrey has 21 years of professional experience under his belt. He co-owns East Coast Garden Center and RSC Landscaping, which earned the 2010 Delaware Nursery Landscape Association award for Best Large Landscape in the resident category. Here’s Cordrey’s advice on starting a new landscape or garden.

Consider the sun. Where and when the area gets sun or shade will affect your decision about what to plant. “Plant selection is determined by sun or shade exposure, but also how wet or dry the soil will be,” says Cordrey. Discuss irrigation and watering with a professional landscaper when you purchase.

Create long-term blooms. Re-bloomers are all the rage. While traditional blooming shrubs like azaleas bloom only in spring, re-bloomers bloom in spring, summer and fall. Popular at East Coast is the Encore brand, a breed of stunning azaleas that will keep you in the pink (or white) for months. “They’re a bit more expensive,” says Cordrey, “but people are willing to pay for three bloom periods instead of one.” Also available is the Endless Summer hydrangea.

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Choose disease- and insect-resistant plants whenever possible. Cordrey recommends Knockout roses, a sturdy perennial that produces a serious wow factor. The rose blooms from April through the first heavy frost. To maintain your Knockouts, add compost to the soil around the knockout rose bush each year in the spring. Cut the rose bush down to 12 inches in early spring.

Stock up on colorful containers. This season’s best landscapes will boast bountiful plants and shrubs in containers rather than in the ground. “In the last two years, container gardening has been big,” says Cordrey. Containers placed around pools or gardens can hold shrubs and patio trees. Try North Pole Apple trees. They thrive in containers and never grow more than 3-feet wide.

Prepare soil by adding organic matter. Formed by the decomposition of leaves and other plant material by micro-organisms in the soil, organic matter includes lawn clippings, leaves, stems, branches, moss, algae, manure, droppings, earthworms and other material. Cordrey also can sample the PH levels in your garden, and advise from there.

Know your soil. The closer you get to the beach, the less sand there is in the soil. “You’d think it would be the opposite,” says Cordrey, “but there is actually a lot of clay downstate.” Sandy areas need more organic material to break up the clay and create good drainage. In areas such as Millsboro or Georgetown, however, the soil is extremely sandy. “In that case, you’re trying to slow down the drainage process.”

When designing, there are two ways to go. Show your landscaper magazine photos of what you like, or let the pros do their thing. “Create your wish list, but we’ll need to discuss sun and shade and find what’s best for your property,” says Cordrey. “Once we’ve visited the home, customers can come to our garden center and see how the plants actually look.”

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Get cranking this month. “March is a great time to plan out the garden or landscape,” says Cordrey. “Remember, planting is the easy and fun part. It’s the preparation that takes time, so start now.”

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