The Plant Man column
for publication week of 02/06/05 - 02/12/05
The Plant Man
by Steve Jones
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 firstname.lastname@example.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
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!
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
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.
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
Enjoy your planning sessions!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to email@example.com and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org