Planning spring planting? Here are some ideas (Plantman Article)

The Plant Man column for publication week of 02/06/05 - 02/12/05 (733 words) ###
The Plant Man by Steve Jones www.landsteward.org
Planning spring planting? Here are some ideas
Winter may seem kind of "blah" but in fact it can be an exciting time for those of us who enjoy landscaping and gardening. Why? Because it's the time we plan our spring planting and imagine the riot of color and fragrance that await us in the months ahead!
But what to choose?
Many readers of this column send me e-mails at snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org asking for some suggestions that will fit their particular landscape and soil types. (You are certainly welcome to do so, too!) Today, I will suggest some plants that are really exciting my interest this season. Some of these might be right for you as well.
Sedum "Baby Tears" When it comes to groundcover, you certainly have quite a wide variety to choose from. But some can be rather ho-hum. That's why I really like Baby Tears as it is truly spectacular! It's a tough-as-nails hardy perennial that nonetheless blooms with hundreds of tiny starry white flowers with pink backs in the shape of rosettes with teardrop-shaped leaves.
The stems are quite delicate so they're not suitable for foot traffic, but they are low-maintenance, tolerate low water and poor, dry soil conditions and spread quite quickly.
My wife Cheryl told me she is planning to take a few of these Baby Tears from our nursery and plant them in hanging baskets to go on our front porch. And that's worth remembering: Just because something is described as "groundcover" doesn't mean you can't find some other creative ways to enjoy its beauty!
Butterfly Bushes Regular readers probably know how much I love butterfly bushes. But if you're looking for a little diversity, think about one or more of these varieties:
Buddleia "Cornwall Blue" This one grows to around 8 feet tall with striking lavender-blue flower spikes on graceful grey foliage and blooms from late spring through early fall. The following spring, you simply trim them back to about 12" to 18" and they'll begin to grow back again by summer.
Buddleia "Border Beauty" and "Lochinch" Both these varieties mature at lower height than the Cornwall Blue. Border Beauty tops out at around 6 feet and Lochich at about 4 feet tall. I think the Border Beauty is particularly fragrant. And of course, butterflies are attracted to all three varieties, so we add a few butterfly houses to provide lodging as well as food!
Tree Form Mock Orange This is an unusual deciduous shrub and not readily available everywhere, but worth seeking out. There are so many neat ways to use the tree form Mock Orange, such as lining walks or driveways or around patios. It has to be professionally trained into tree form before you buy it, so be sure you see the phrase "tree form" in the description.
It will grow to around 5 to 8 feet tall and produces bright green foliage in addition to very fragrant pure white flowers. If you like to create really attractive flower arrangements in your home or for special occasions, this could be a good choice for you.
Douglas Fir If you're looking for an attractive evergreen, it's hard to beat the Douglas Fir. For one thing, it is really fast growing; even faster than the Frazier. It looks good as a specimen, but is at its best when used to line a driveway. If you have recently built a new home on a fairly large lot and want to create an ambience of maturity quite quickly, a stand of stately Douglas Firs along your drive should do the trick. They prefer moist well-drained soil.
These are just a few ideas to get the creative gears turning over in your brain as you wait for winter to turn to spring. As you know, not every plant works in every plant hardiness zone or in every soil condition. If you want some personal advice or suggestions (or if you're having a problem) send me an e-mail and remember to include your location, soil type and any relevant details. I'll send you a personal response and might include you question or comment in a future column.
Enjoy your planning sessions!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org
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