Is your landscape looking a little on the drab side? Same old trees, same old shrubs, same old color green?
It may look OK, but it’s lacking something - the spark, the show. There’s a world out there of beautiful, interesting new plants. One of them may be the specimen that could set off that corner from the rest of the garden. The only way we will find this special treasure is to browse through the nurseries. Let’s go window shopping.
Making up the backbone of the garden are the evergreen trees. Most of us are familiar with the pines, spruce and firs. But here are others:
Canada hemlock (Tsuga canadensis): This soft, shiny, darkneedled tree can grow anywhere from 20 to 80 feet. It is easily maintained by pruning and it will tolerate sun or shade.
Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergiana) and the Japanese Umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata): Both wonderful alternatives to the more familiar pines found in our area. They are a little showier and softer than normal pines.
Siberian spruce (Picea omorika), black spruce (P. mariana) and ubalpine fir: All have the unique capability of growing very tall and slender. They are wonderful for small gardens. They provide us with the grandeur of a spruce or fir without taking up the entire yard.
Deciduous trees and shrubs offer interesting branch structure. Their airy canopies allow sun to move through them, creating shadows that move across the garden in everchanging patterns.
Amur maple (acer ginnala): This outstanding small tree (20 feet), may be pruned as a multi-trunked or a single trunked tree. The bright, crimson fall color of its long, narrowtoothed leaves is quite striking.
Ginkgo: This very hardy, slowgrowing specimen doesn’t seem to be bothered by disease, insects or weather. It is a survivor of a prehistoric group of trees. In fact, we have a ginkgo petrified forest just north of Vantage off I-90. Not exactly a vacation high point, but definitely worth a stop.
The ginkgo is upright, open and airy with green, fan-shaped leaves. The fall color is bright yellow. Always look for male trees. Female trees drop smelly, messy fruit.
Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata): This multi-trunked tree or large shrub blooms soft, pendulous, white, fragrant flowers in early spring. It is gorgeous against a background of evergreen trees.
Fern-leaf maple (Acer japonicum “Vitifolium”): I discovered this outstanding specimen two years ago. Its deeply cut leaves with toothed lobes will turn shades of glorious reds and oranges in the fall. It will only reach 10 feet, making it an excellent specimen tree.
Tri-color beech: Here’s the show stopper. Picture burgundy-colored leaves edged in light pink and white. It looks like it’s in bloom all summer long. I don’t understand why we don’t see more of this gorgeous tree.
Butterfly bush (Buddleia): We can’t forget this handsome summer blooming bush, sometimes referred to as the summer blooming lilac. It bears an array of spectacular blossoms of deep pink, reddish purple or white on long spikes. Leaf color is from deep green to graygreen. If you’re looking for a shrub that will flower all summer other than the potentilla, this beauty was created just for you.
Contorted filbert (Corylus avellana): This is one of my favorite plants. The branches are curled and contorted and the leaves look like the permanent headquarters for resident aphids - they’re textured and always puckered. During the winter months, the bare, contorted branches are covered in yellow, pendulous catkins.
This small list barely touches the interesting plant material out there. Take a day to browse your favorite nursery. It’s an opportunity to see all the newest selections in the plant kingdom and to familiarize yourself with some of the lesser-known members. You don’t have to buy, but I bet you will.