Let’s face it – COVID-19 changed our lives and the way we live them. Research and trend reports over the past two years confirm that U.S. consumers are re-investing in their homes, yards and gardens. Creating unique outdoor living experiences in our back and front yards includes designating spaces for dining, entertaining, relaxing and enjoying conversations with family, friends and neighbors. The stylized front porch is back!
When you’re designing outdoor living spaces for clients, consider using plants to help accent and define rooms. Plant trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses inground and in large containers or urns for color and texture. Not only are plants good for the environment, they provide height, beauty, privacy and aromatherapy benefits in a variety of sizes and styles to suit any outdoor décor. Here are a few varieties that provide benefits and definition.
Illuminati Tower® Mockorange (Philadelphus coronarius) – Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.
Illuminati Tower® Mockorange
If creating a white garden with natural fragrance and style is in your outdoor room plan, Illuminati Tower® Mockorange is a great choice. This deciduous shrub has a space-saving habit. Upright stems with emerald-green foliage resemble four-sided towers. The scent of its spring- and summer-blooming lily-white flowers is reminiscent of orange blossoms. Petals have pastel yellow centers that provide added contrast and interest.
Drought tolerant and deer resistant, Illuminati Tower® Mockorange grows 5 feet to 6 feet tall in flower and 3 to 4 feet wide. Establish it as a specimen plant, en masse as a space-saving hedge or as thriller in containers. This shrub blooms on old wood, so if pruning is desired do so after flowering. Maintenance is otherwise easy. This mock orange does well with average moisture and neutral soil. Plant in part sun to sun, in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 7.
Vicary Golden Privet (Ligustrum x vicaryi)
Vicary Golden Privet
If outdoor room plans call for changing colors without changing plants – consider Vicary Golden Privet. We like this shrub’s transitioning hues as much as its whimsical habit. Foliage has subtle green undertones as it emerges bright yellow in spring, then transitions to fiery, purple-red in fall.
Privet has a gumdrop-like shape that looks great unclipped, making it appropriate for defining cottage, pollinator or cutting gardens. Fragrant, lilac-shaped white flower clusters in summer entice busy bees and butterflies. Plant this alone or in a corner grouping with maiden grass, weigela or spirea. Vicary Golden Privet quickly reaches 8 to 10 feet tall and wide at maturity. It tolerates a variety of well-drained soils and moderate drought once established. It likes full sun. Plant in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 8.
Maiden Grass (Miscanthus Gracillimus)
Looking for height from a plant that can do double-duty as a pretty focal point? Consider Maiden Grass, a clump-forming perennial ornamental grass. Foliage is finely textured, with wispy green blades. Plume-like copper panicles rise above the foliage in late summer, before transitioning into silvery beige feathers as seeds mature. Birds like the plant’s seeds for food and use its foliage to make their nests. Maiden grass adds texture and movement to borders and perennial beds. Use it where privacy is needed, especially around patios, pergolas and follies. Panicles are also pretty accents in cut floral arrangements.
Maiden grass requires six hours of full sun daily to thrive. It does not like wet feet, preferring to make its home in fertile, well-drained soil. Provide moisture regularly after planting until established. This ornamental grass is deer and rabbit resistant and drought and salt tolerant. Maiden grass has a mature height of 6 to 7 feet and width of 5 feet. Plant in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 9.
BloomStruck® Bigleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘PIIHM-II’)
BloomStruck® Hydrangea defines boundaries in smaller spaces while providing seemingly endless color all season long. And you won’t have to wait as long for those blooms either as this hydrangea produces flowers a bit earlier than its cousins. BloomStruck® Hydrangea can be planted in spring or fall and grows quickly. Its rounded, spreading habit reaches only 3 to 4 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide at maturity, so it’s pretty compact. Depending on soil pH, this reblooming mophead produces 3- to 5-inch flowers that are either rosy-pink (less acidic) or bluish-purple (very acidic).
Staying upright is no problem, especially on windy days and when laden with blooms. Dark green leaves with red petioles and veins and red-purple stems stand on extremely strong legs. Colors complement and contrast nicely with neighboring plants. While it prefers part shade, BloomStruck® Hydrangea is not bothered by summer heat and is disease resistant, especially to powdery mildew. It requires little maintenance and performs well in soil that is moist and well-drained. Plant in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 9.
Spice Baby™ Koreanspice Viburnum – Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.
Spice Baby™ Viburnum
Intoxicating fragrance and a compact habit make Spice Baby™ Viburnum perfect for defined spaces that require floral color and foliage interest. Deer-resistant, this viburnum is an upright deciduous shrub with pink buds that open white. Flowers attract birds, bees and other beneficial pollinators. Plant in-ground or as a thriller in larger containers.
This shrub’s sturdy stems feature ovate, dark green leaves that turn shades of stunning red in fall. To produce autumn berries, plant Spice Baby™ Viburnum as a companion to another, perhaps taller, viburnum of a different cultivar. For example, at a mature height of 6 to 7 feet, Spice Girl® Korean Spice Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii) is a sister shrub and another good choice for boundary definition. Plant it behind Spice Baby™ Viburnum for a real color wow. Spice Baby™ is deer resistant and blooms on old wood from early to late spring. Mature height and width is 4 to 5 feet. Plant it in part to full sun, in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 8.
Limelight Prime® Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)
Limelight Prime® Hydrangea
For height, definition and color, you can’t go wrong with Limelight Prime® Hydrangea. Panicles emerge bright green, transition to soft pink and then gradually become vivid red as the bloom show goes on and on from early through late summer. Strong stems with tough, deep green foliage hold up 4¼-inch long panicles all season. Use this shrub to define borders, provide privacy and screen challenging areas. Plant it en masse for extra wow, or alone as a thriller in a larger container. Clip panicles for outdoor table displays.
Deadheading is not necessary because Limelight Prime® Hydrangea blooms on new wood. Prune by cutting the main branches back by one-third in late winter or early spring. This hydrangea does well in average, well-drained soil when planted in part sun to sun. Mature height is 4 feet; 6 feet when in flower. Once established, the width is 4 to 5 feet. Plant in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 8.
Learn About Landscape Plants from Loma Vista Nursery
Loma Vista Nursery’s staff members are experts in the field. We love helping people learn and understand more about healthy plants that perform well in the Midwest. Visit our plant catalog for information about trees, shrubs and perennial plants that are ideal for Midwest landscapes. To get answers to plant-related questions, send an email to email@example.com or call (785) 229-7200.
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