I think it is safe to say that all of us plant our gardens with a vision in mind that it will be beautiful twelve months of the year, only to find that as summer passes, so does the beauty we so enjoy. So off we go to our favorite nursery to add something that will help our garden at that very moment. If you could add shrubs or small trees that serves two purposes at one time, you would be making great use of the space in your garden, no matter the size. Today, I am talking about plant color and plant contribution to wildlife. This idea of plants with two jobs easily translates to pots too!
The following is a brief list of plants that add interest to your garden for more than one reason or season!
Deciduous shrubs can stand alone or act as a low to mid-size plants in a mixed garden. They make wonderful backdrops to other lower growing shrubs, low growing evergreens, perennials, and grasses. They also carry the eye easily up to the next tier of your garden which can be your taller shrubs, trees, perennials, and ornamental grasses; thus adding depth. And, finally, seeing bulbs peek out underneath them in the spring is an easy way to put a smile on your face and let you know spring is just around the corner.
Cotinus coggygria 'Gold Spirit'
Although it is hard for me to pick a favorite plant in the garden, this come close. This is the gold leafed form of the more commonly used Purple Smoke Bush. I absolutely love this shrub for many reasons. All gardens should have colored foliage included in their design. Gold foliage catches the eye like a lit candle on even the dreariest of days. For a deciduous shrub, this plant is five stars. It holds its color faithfully throughout the season, not burning at all in the heat of summer. It has incredible versatility when it comes to how big you want it to be and takes to pruning very well. Don’t be afraid to cut it back hard in the late fall or early spring . . . and try lifting it off the ground as seen in the picture to the left, to show its beautiful branching. Even bare, the shape of this versatile shrub is interesting, especially as it ages. It has its best color in full sun and is drought hardy once established. And finally, it puts on a show of incredible color in the fall.
Plant with a dark needled low growing pine such as ‘Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’
Perennials and Grasses
Fall perennials bring such varied color and height to our late season gardens and can be combined in eye catching combos. In addition to this, these plants have a very important second use if you can delay cleaning your garden beds for just a short while …. These plants will feed your birds. This is becoming increasingly more important as green space disappears. Here are just four of the many perennials and grasses that combine beauty and usefulness:
Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldstrum' combined with Aster asperulus
Commonly called Black Eyed Susans, Rudbeckia comes in all sizes from the 5’ tall Rudbeckia Herbstonne to the 1’ high Rudbeckia Little Goldstar. Rudbeckia Goldsturm is seen here. There are also several Rudbeckias that are considered annuals in our part of the world that offer even more color choices than gold. This hard-working plant provides weeks of color in our fall garden, lighting up a corner on a dull day. It thrives in full sun and requires average moisture to be at its best. It is one of the most tried and true plants out there for a reason. Any aster cultivar will work its magic. The colors range from whites, to shades of pink, to shades of purple. They also bloom for weeks and come in varying heights. Everything you need to brighten your fall garden in one neat package
Echinacea combined with Pennisteum
Echinacea was perennial plant of the year in 2008, and has never looked back. From the days of pink and white flowers only, the varieties have expanded to a multitude of colors to satisfy every palette. It is a bold, strong stemmed beauty that loves the sun. Long before the birds are interested, the butterflies will enchant you as they feed. It looks spectacular on its own or combined with ornamental grasses, such as Pennisetum. This grass also has many cultivars and sizes to choose from and provides interest long into the fall months with its attractive buff coloring
Hydrangea quercifolia - Oakleaf Hydrangeas
We are always on the search for plants that do well in shade to part shade. This shrub does all we can ask for in a shrub in spades. This is a plant with presence! In the early part of the year, it is dormant, showing deeply rich red- brown exfoliating bark. The leaves unfurl to be large, deeply-lobed and oak-like in shape, with a very thick, rough texture. The flowers are grape like clusters starting a rich creamy white or pink depending on the variety. Finally, the show finale is its deep red to burgundy leaf color in the Fall. It is slow to growbut well worth the wait. This hydrangea loves to grow in morning sun and afternoon shade, or all-day dappled sun. The top photo is Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’. The third photo below shows the leaf colors in rich reds and burgundies that so put on a show every year.
I love this time of year in the garden, but it is impossible to list even a small percentage of the incredible plants available to you. I encourage you to come in to Art’s Nursery and look around… ask for help. We are always happy to talk to you about our plant selection and what we can do to help you complete your garden vision.
Photos Courtesy :