Sunday, March 10, 2013

Favorite Garden Trees and Shrubs Zone 5-6

Our zone 5-6 backyard is loaded with a variety of trees, shrubs and perennials. Despite having only 3/4 acre, we have a diverse environment that lends itself well to experimenting with plants. We have a  wide narrow lot with a 30 x 70 pond and a narrow strip of existing woodline along the perimeter. We have sun and shade, and mostly sandy soil, except where we have amended with compost. Visitors are always captivated by the private, park-like setting we have created in the midst of a typical suburban subdivision. Our backyard is secluded because we have created detached 'layers' of landscape beds that provide screening around the entire perimeter of the yard instead of a typical, rigid wall of screening plants.

We consider our yard as much a 'research lab' as we do a place for relaxation and fun. Because we are in the business of horticulture, we have access to varieties that are new on the market as well as the tried and true varieties. We have planted and UN planted hundred of varieties to create our suburban oasis. Keep in mind, this is our idea of 'fun'. We realize most people don't have the time or inclination to play in the yard as we do, so I hope this list of 'Favorite Trees and Shrubs' for zone 5-6 will help you fast-forward to the yard of your dreams.

Finally, I want to add that not all of our trees and shrubs are planted intentionally. Our years of experience has also shown us that the indigenous plants can play a big role is providing low-maintanance options. 'Playing' in the garden can become 'working' in the garden if we have to apply chemicals, excessive fertilizers, or do too much physical maintance. We want to keep it simple. We definately do not like to use any chemicals of any kind, so varieties that have insect or disease problems will go on the 'UNplant list' rather than spraying or jumping through any hoops to keep the plant happy. We want plants that are happy on their own, without too much meddling on our part. Due to that philosophy it is only natural that we have kept many of the plants that were already here before we built the house.  Although they may not be the most attractive, the cherry, box elder and willow that have grabbed a foothold in our yard are essential features that we have come to appreciate with each passing year. 

The picture above shows the front 'layer' planting bed. Our street is about 30 feet in front of this bed. On the backside of this bed (picture below)we have a strip of lawn and then another 'layer' of plantings that shields the pond and provides plenty of privacy. The front layer was planted with WHITE PINE that grew rapidly and provide year-long screening. We also included some flowering deciduous shrubs to add color during the growing season.  The VIBURNUM have proven to be excellent choices for providing beauty and durability with fragrant white blooms in spring or summer and great fall color. There are many varieties of Viburnum. Choose the size and shape that fits your environment.

 In the picture below you can see a smallish, stand-alone tree. It is a PARROTTIA and it is fabulous. We have three of them in our yard. Since my pictures don't do the tree justice, search the internet to find images of this amazing tree. It has everything we want....durable, awesome leaf texture and color, popular 'average' size won't get too overpowering and great fall color. This may be my favorite landscape tree. 


 Favorite trees and shrubs pondside include the indigenous SUMAC because of it's fantastic fall color and the WILLOW TREES because of the ease of growing and tiny leaves that don't pile up in the fall. You can see on smallish willow that looks like a lollipop near the center of this picture. It had grown too tall so in February,we cut it down to about 8 foot. That spring it rapidly produced a new sprouting of branches at the cut line.

Another pond-side favorite is definately the KOUSA DOGWOOD. Beautiful white flowers stay on this tree for over a month. In the fall, the tree is covered with bright red 'berries' which eventually fall to the ground and disappear quickly as the wildlife gobble them up. 

TAXODIUM (bald cypress) is a must have. You can barely see it in the pic below (left of white flowering hydrangea), but it makes a powerful statement. It is large now, it will be a giant someday. Unique branching habit, soft evergreen-like foliage, although it is deciduous.
 HYDRANGEA 'LIMELIGHT' is my favorite hydrangea of all time. It's very low maintance, grows rapidly and produces a prolific abundance of giant conical flowers. They are lime green at first and change to white, then rosy, green as cool weather approaches in the fall. Great winter interest in an otherwise stark environment.

WEEPING CYPRESS. Love it. It's like a giant with arms open wide waiting to give you a big hug.
LILACS. An old fashioned favorite. If pruned each year after flowering it will keep a full shape. Don't ignore these shrubs as they can get 'bare bottoms' if allowed to get overgrown. If your's are already overgrown, prune them heavily.
Best choices for fall color...the old standby's continue to top our list of favorites. BURNING BUSH(Euonymous Alata) and MAPLE. Too many maples to mention. Choose a variety that is known for excellent color and you won't be dissatisfied come October.

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