Some of the best landscaping plants are hardly what you would call "household names." They fly under the radar, unlike plants that even non-gardeners have heard of, such as tulips, rose bushes, oak trees and holly shrubs. Think of all the free press coverage these well-known specimens receive in popular culture. Most everybody familiar with the music of the past century has heard of:
But in the list below, I present 10 great landscaping plants you may not know about, in hopes of getting the word out to beginners. Gardening junkies will recognize these choices right away. But even they might learn a thing or two by clicking on the "More Information on..." links that accompany my selections below. I made my choices with an eye to variety (perennials, vines, bushes and trees are all represented) and four-season interest.
You may think "tulips" and not "Adonis" when you hear talk of spring, but Adonis is no ugly duckling (how could it be, with a name like that?). And Adonis vernalis owns bragging rights over the tulip in one area, at least, unquestionably: this perennial blooms much earlier in spring. Indeed, its cheerful yellow flowers are one of the true heralds of spring.
So why am I including a rose in my list after stating that everyone has heard of roses? Ah, but Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) is not really a rose at all; it is a hellebore. And "hellebore" is one heck of a funny name, which is probably why people prefer the common name, Lenten rose.
In my article, I explain the "Lenten" part of that name. But first I describe what this early spring bloomer looks like so that you'll learn why it makes my list of 10 best landscaping plants you may not know about. Hint: the foliage influences my selection as much as the flowers.
Anybody in North America who pays attention when shopping in the produce section has heard of kiwis, right? So why do I include kiwi vines in my list of best landscaping plants you may not know about? Well, because it's a different kind of kiwi we are talking about here.
The kiwi vines I am recommending are grown for the beauty of their variegated leaves, not their fruit. In fact, there's no fruit involved at all, since it is the male vines that are generally grown. While kiwi vines offer great interest in only one season (spring), the display they put on during that time can be truly breathtaking.
Like kiwi vines, golden chain trees are showy only in spring -- but make up for it by lighting up the whole yard when in flower. Consequently, while this is not the type of landscaping plant around which you build a landscape design, it most certainly does put on the type of display to which you'll look forward all winter. Treat it as a divine play thing, missing nary a chance to enjoy its splendor while opportunity knocks.
Hydrangeas, as a general class, are well-known for being one of the best landscaping plants for summer, but the names of some of the specific types most useful in the yard are not household names. For example, folks often become frustrated in their search for a perennial vine that will grow well in shade, while the solution to their problem is readily available but flies under the radar: climbing hydrangea.
But for 4-season interest, it is hard to beat oakleaf hydrangea bush. My picture (left) shows what this landscaping plant looks like when it displays its fall foliage color.
Last but not least, I present a landscaping plant that is a must-have for the winter yard.
We are usually sad to see the leaves fall off of our deciduous bushes. But contorted hazelnut bush is the exception to the rule. Also called "Harry Lauder's walking stick," this bush is at its best in winter, when its leaves no longer mask its madcap branching pattern. Like pussy willow, contorted hazelnut bears catkins, but in this case, the catkins are just a bonus: with contorted hazelnut, it's really all about the intricate twists and turns of its branches.