The Plant Man column
for publication week of 08/21/05 - 08/27/05
The Plant Man
by Steve Jones
Unusual plants add unique look to landscape
"Gee, I hadn't thought of that!"
It's something I often hear from friends and visitors to the nursery.
They ask me for some suggestions for shrubs and trees to add to their
landscape. I ask them a few questions about the lot size, the amount of
shade, drainage and soil conditions, and so on. Then after a few
moments thought, I suggest some plants that I believe will work for
And that's when they look (pleasantly) surprised and tell me they
hadn't thought of THAT one!
Today, I have a few ideas for you as you begin to think about next
season. These plants aren't particularly exotic or unusual. But
maybe they weren't the first ones that come to mind...
Althea Pink Aphrodite
I immediately thought of this one because we're approaching the end
of summer and Altheas just seem to thrive at this time of year, when
many other plants are past their prime, yet it's too early for those
Cheryl and I enjoy the sight of the large flowers on our Altheas.
We've found that frequent, quite severe pruning in late winter or
early spring creates the large blooms we love to see. But if you
prefer the sight of a large number of smaller flowers, simply leaving
the pruning shears in the shed.
We've found that Altheas do well in just about any type of soil and
like sun or partial shade. They're slow to moderate growers but can
top out at between 6 and 10 feet if left to their own devices.
To add variety, mix the Pink Aphrodite with one or both of these other
Althea varieties: Diana (white) and Ardens (purple).
Pink Flowering Almond
Prunus glandulosa rosea plena is the "official" name of this
attractive shrub that blooms in early spring. If you have recently
moved into a newly-constructed home that still has that "bare"
look, this could be an excellent shrub for you. Group a few together
or create a small hedge and these fast-growing shrubs will soon add an
Avoid deep shade and plant Pink Flowering Almonds in well-drained,
light garden soil. They'll reach a mature height of 3 to 6 feet.
Serviceberry Autumn Brilliance
Also known as Amelanchier x grandiflora, I happen to think this variety
is superior to other Amelanchiers for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it gives you a spectacular display of white flowers that are
larger than you'll see on the other varieties. Secondly, Autumn
Brilliance is particularly adaptable: Let it spread out into a lush
bush or prune it carefully and create a small tree.
As for ease of growing, it suckers less, is adaptable to a wide variety
of soils and is fairly drought resistant.
I mentioned the white flowers. In fact, the flowers start out as pale
pink then turn to a beautiful and fragrant snowy white. The purplish
leaves turn to red, yellow and orange in the fall. And there's a
bonus: the fruit is safe for consumption both by wildlife and humans!
Autumn Brilliance is still not as easy to find as other varieties,
despite being featured in a lot of magazines recently. If you're
having trouble finding it, drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Despite the "sour" name, a highly attractive tree! The Oxydendrum
arboretum has masses of unique, drooping panicles of brilliant white
that persist through summer to early autumn. Then in fall the leaves
transition from orange to brick red to scarlet. Sourwood trees prefer
light shade and moist, well-drained soil that is high in organic
material. A planting tip: Choose container-grown plants rather than
bareroot because Sourwoods are tricky to transplant.
Want some more plant ideas that you might not have considered? Send me
an e-mail with a few details about your landscape and what you want to
achieve and I'll do my best to come up with some fresh concepts for
The Plant Man is here to help. Send questions about trees, shrubs and
landscaping to email@example.com For resources and additional
information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, go