You might still be mopping you brow under a broiling August sun, but
it's already time to be making plans for fall planting.
For me, and for many other garden lovers, this is one of the most
enjoyable times of the year. Rather like small children imagining the
pile of colorfully-wrapped gifts they'll find under the tree on
Christmas morning, we look through catalogs or browse online and
visualize vibrant clusters of showy shrubs that will burst forth next
spring as a result of our fall planting.
But where do you begin?
Much as it's fun to do your own detective work as you begin the hunt
for the perfect landscape, it sometimes helps to have a few pointers
to get your creative juices flowing. So here are some ideas for you.
Some might be familiar, some might be quite new to you. But even if
they aren't quite your horticultural cup of tea, they might spark a
few ideas of your own.
Physocarpus Summer Wine
Cheryl and I saw this plant at a nursery and went straight over to get
an up-close look. It has deeply cut, dark red/crimson leaves, and we
both agreed this would be an excellent deciduous shrub to place around
yellow or bright green plants to provide dramatic contrast to their
color. It creates its own contrast in the spring, however, when it
bursts forth with sprays of white, button-like blooms.
Summer Wine is a relatively new Ninebark hybrid and we've found that
it's a strong grower but never leggy or out of control. Extremely
hardy (to zone 3), it will reach a mature height of 4 to 6 feet and
about the same width.
Spiraea Snow Storm
If you would enjoy the sight of brilliant white, closely-packed white
blooms, akin to a snow storm in summer, this could be the shrub for
you. The snow-white blooms with tiny pink centers appear from early to
mid summer and make a nice contrast with the large, deep blue-green
leaves that turn to a blazing orange red in the fall.
Snow Storm tops out at around 4 feet and prefers medium-moisture, well-
Spiraea Magic Carpet
Sticking with the Spiraea family, consider Magic Carpet if you'd like
to see deep pink flowers over bronze to light green foliage that is
delicately tipped with red. This is a relatively small plant, reaching
to a height of maybe 12 to 18 inches with a spread of about 24 inches,
so you could also consider it for a ground cover that will reward you
with colorful blooms from early to mid-summer. The foliage will turn
to a russet brown that usually lasts until mid-November.
Magic Carpet produces the most vibrant color when exposed to full sun
and is drought tolerant.
Abelia Silver Anniversary
This is a colorful deciduous shrub that is easy to grow and was a New
National plant release for 2006. I particularly like this one because
of its distinct silver to cream margined variegated foliage that form
tight, neat groupings around the reddish-brown stems.
Blooming from late spring to early fall, Silver Anniversary will grow
to about 1 to 3 feet in height, does just fine in full sun to moderate
shade and is adaptable to many soil types with moderate moisture.
If you're looking for a climbing plant to enhance a large fence or
pergola or to cover a less-than-beautiful wall, consider the Hydrangea
petiolaris. It's easy to grow, virtually care-free and long-lived,
reaching heights (or lengths) of 60 to 80 feet.
Between May and July, it provides a show of creamy white flowers
against a backdrop of rich green foliage and peeling bark. You might
also use it as a ground cover or let it snake across and around the
rocks of a rustic stone wall beside a garden pathway.
I hope I have given you food for thought. In the weeks ahead, I'll
come up with more suggestions, but if you'd like some personal help, e-
mail me a few details about your landscape and what you hope to
achieve and I'll do my best to come up some ideas for you.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org