This column will be devoted to plants that are not trendy, nor are they used much in landscape designs. Each plant has a niche and may not fit your garden. Yet, if you have a suitable spot, they will undoubtedly cause heads to turn.
As you may have noticed, yellow and gold plants are a category pushed often in these columns. Gold Privet (Ligustrum vicaryii) has provided great bright yellow foliage all season. The leaves have the brilliance of forsythia and the value of enduring all summer. Fairly soon, the foliage turns a beet purple to almost black. Away from the coast this shrub can be stunted or killed by a severe winter and usually grows less than six feet tall due to this dieback. Near the coast, it can reach 8' tall. In the spring white flowers are quite attractive against the yellow leaves. Full sun and rich soil provides the best growing conditions, although it is soil adaptable and becomes green if the location is too shady.
Heather and Heath are small evergreen shrubs, growing up to two feet or so, at a very slow rate. Flower colors are widely varied and foliage can be silver, green, yellow, and reddish. Ideal conditions would be full sun to light shade with a soil rich in compost and peat moss to hold moisture but drain well. Also, it is very helpful to have a location where snow piles high. This will assist in getting Heather through tough winters. Pruning quite severely in early spring helps keep the shrub full and flowering well.
Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifoia glaucaphylla) is a native Maine evergreen shrub, which grows about 1' tall by 2' wide. Breton Blue Bog Rosemary has silver foliage with pink flowers in May. The best conditions are full sun and moist, well-drained soil, yet it has survived drier conditions when pampered the first few seasons. This shrub is perfect for small gardens.
The viscosum varieties of Azalea, or Swamp Azalia, seem to be among the cleanest of the Azalea family, in terms of fungus problems. Despite a damp season and overhead irrigation, they have shown little or no leafspot. This Azalia blooms in July and is very fragrant. A Maine native, it is white in the wild, but "Pink Mist" is a nice pink form. Swamp Azalia can reach 6' tall. It prefers damp soil in sun to light shade. In the fall, the leaves turn a bronze color.
Ural Falsespirea (Sorbaria sorbifolia) is a fast-growing, spreading shrub, reaching 8' tall. It grows best in full sun to light shade and loamy soil, although it adapts to poorer soil once established. This shrub is good for retaining soil on steep banks, since it grows new shoots off root runners. Showy white flowers appear in June and often last into August. Foliage is graceful, almost tropical. This shrub is better used away from foundations.
Leucothoe, also known botanically by this name, is a native evergreen shrub that has grown on me over the years. Early difficulties in wintering well and apparent susceptibility to leaf disease problems caused it to be little recommended. However, if planted in a sheltered spot, where wind and afternoon sun will not bother it, it does fine. Leucothoe prefers moist soil and shade. It grows about 3' tall with arching branches. Leaves are elongated and pointed, glossy green in summer and bronze to red in fall. White flowers appear in late June and July for about one month. This shrub is easily controlled and works well near a foundation or under larger plants.
Lingonberries (Vaccinium) are evergreen groundcovers reaching 4-12" tall and spreading well if provided mulch in which to root. Berries are blueberry size and can be used for jam, wine, sauce, or eating fresh. Berries are often still edible this time of year. They also have a long history of medicinal use. The red fruit has attractive ornamental properties as well. Full sun and moist, well-drained soil provides optimum growth.
The above plants will reward you well should you choose to plant them.
They are free of major disease and insect problems. They have multi-faceted
seasonal interest. Although this is a tough time of year to find plants,
they are generally available.
© Shaker Hill Nursery