Landscaping In Richmond, VA

Each year around this time we have clients E-mail us with pictures of certain plants in their landscapes that seem to of gone from lush and green to brown and crispy over night. The problem is some of the most commonly planted shrubs in Richmond would really prefer to be further south. With this post we would like to address a few common plants that we would recommend not planting without taking certain precautions.

Gardenias:

gardenia-bushWho doesn’t love the smell of gardenias?  Unfortunately they can be a very tricky plant to have success with in our climate.  They need to stay cool with partial shade in the summer but also need to stay warm in the winter.  Unless you live in a micro-climate such as the FAN you will probably have a difficult time getting them established.  If you are able to get one established it will likely die back hard in the winter but should begin to send up new growth at the base once the temperatures warm up for spring.  For wonderful fragrance we recommend planting Clethra instead.  It smells amazing and is also native to our region.

Loropetalum:

Loropetalum_Purple_Diamond_Close_Blooms_X21A26871Also called Chinese Fringe Tree, the Loropetalum is another commonly planted shrub that struggles with our winters.  Once established it will likely do okay with minimal die back but getting it established can be tricky.  The reason this plant is desired is for the burgundy red evergreen foliage.  For a native plant with some red evergreen foliage try different varieties of Leucothoe Axilaris.  Also consider planting deciduous shrubs that have gorgeous red fall color.  Among the best are Itea Virginica and Red Choke Berry.  For an ornamental grass check out Shenandoah Switch Grass for beautiful red foliage many months out of the year.

Madison Jasmine: 

JasmineWhile more cold tolerant than Star Jasmine, Madison Jasmine still has a hard time making it through our winters.  Once established it will likely experience die back and then flush back out in Spring.  So if you have jasmine in your yard that has recently turned brown don’t panic yet!  Give it some time and it will likely show signs of life within the next month.  For great native vines, try Clematis Virginiana, Passion Flower, Native honey suckle (Lonicera Sempervirens), and Virginia Creeper (I know this one is often thought of as a weed but you just can’t beat the fall color of this great vine!)  While all native vines tend to be deciduous, they flush back out and grow extremely fast in spring.

Fig Trees:

Fig TreeThe final plant we would like to bring awareness to is the wonderful fig tree.  Its fruits are cherished and its branch structure is considered a work of art.  Over these past couple winters we have witnessed many 20+ year old fig trees totally die back to the ground.  Most of them did recover once warm weather returned but they were dramatically reduced in size.  If your fig tree did not appear to make it this winter give it some time and it may come back.

One thing these four plants have in common is they are all non-natives.  This presents one more great reason to begin switching over to native plants in your yard.  While the plants listed above are not detrimental to our environment they just don’t do very well here.  A lot of time and money can be saved by planting perennials, shrubs, and trees that are intended to be in our area.  So this coming spring keep it native and plant by design!

www.plantbydesign.com

logo

Advertisements

March Plant of the Month: Trillium

Here in Richmond, VA one of the first native perennials to emerge is the underused gem of a plant known as Trillium.  We choose it for this months plant because it’s a great sign that spring is right around the corner!

Commonly known as Toad Shade, TrilliTrillium cuneatum Bed 03G (2) 600x399 107KBum is a member of the lily family and is prized for its unique form.  It contains 3 leaves and a single flower that presents itself in the middle.  With some varieties the flower sits directly on the leaves while with others it is elevated above on a stem.  The leaves will either be variegated (as shown to the left) or solid green.  Flowers tend to be either red (Trillium erectum), white (Trillium grandiflorum), or yellow.

 

When planting Trillium it is best to choose a site that will get sun in the early spring but will be shaded in summer.  Typically this means planting it underneath deciduous trees.  Since they are slow growing and stay low to the ground it is best not to plant them intermixed with other aggressive plants.  It takes many years for Trillium to spread, white-trilliumbut if allowed to do so it can become a beautiful ground cover.  Because Trillium often dies back in the heat of the summer it is best to plant it around other non invasive shade perennials and shrubs.  This will insure that interest remains in mid to late summer.  Keep in mind, it is important to leave trillium standing even when it does die back.  If it is cut back in summer it will often not re-emerge.

So if you have a shady woodland garden we highly recommend giving trillium a try.  While not providing much in the way of nectar it is just a really cool native plant!  The moment you see it in your landscape you will know that warm weather is just around the corner!

www.plantbydesign.com

logo

Get Wild, Go Native!

A radical shift is taking place in the American landscape.  For decades foreign plants that were thought to be superior to our own native species have primarily been used.  Looking back, not only do we see that they are not superior, but we are also witnessing the devastating effects that many of these plants have had on our ecosystem.  Common invasive plants such as burning bush, russian olive, forsythia, and bradford pears crowd out our native species and spread rapidly by seed.  The problem with this infestation is plants that are depended upon by all facets of our ecosystem are disappearing as the dominant non natives take over.

As we begin to understand the intricate role native plants play in our ecosystem we realize how important they really are.  They provide food and shelter to countless wildlife that will go extinct without them.  They also help to clean our water and air as well as increase our soil fertility and prevent erosion.Native & Sustainable Landscaping Richmond, VA  One of the best parts about using native plants in a landscape setting is that they are very low maintenance once established.  They do not need fertilization and rarely need watering.  Also, if the correct plant is chosen for a particular spot it will need next to no pruning.  Plus, native plants are beautiful!  They have incredible seasonal interest and make stepping out into your yard a new experience every day.

With spring right around the corner we encourage everyone to join the gardening revolution and give native plants a chance.  We will help out by showcasing one native perennial a month to help our readers know which trees, perennials, and shrubs are perfect for their gardens.  And as always, feel free to contact us with any questions!

Get Wild, Go Native!

Plant by Design
www.plantbydesign.com

logo

Forget Forsythia

forsythia03Forsythia blooms are one of the first signs that spring has arrived.  Often blooming in late winter to early spring, it lets us know that cold snowy days are behind us.  The flowers emerge before the leaves creating a stunning display of bright yellow against an often still stark backdrop of the last breaths of winter.  Oh yes, it’s easy to see why Forsythia has become a staple plant in Virginia.  But you know what?  Forget Forsythia!

While the blooms are fantastic they only last for 1 to 2 weeks.  What you are left with is an unruly looking shrub, often mistaken for a weed, that requires hard pruning in most landscape applications.  It’s not known for fall color and has zero winter interest.  Forsythia is not native and does very little for the local wildlife.  Take honey bees for example.  Their tongues are just a little too short to take full advantage of the nectar produced by the flowers.  While not considered “invasive”, Forsythia does spread over time and can be a pain to remove after years of growth.

What you end up with is 14 days of this:
Forsythia Spring

And 351 days of this:

Forsythia in the winterforsythia summer

While working at plant nurseries I remember in early spring countless customers coming in to ask for “that yellow blooming plant” they saw flowering all over the place.  Most didn’t understand that because of its size and growth rate forsythia is really only affective as a backdrop or maybe as a hedge if frequent pruning is something you actually enjoy.  *Keep in mind though that Forsythia blooms on old wood so pruning in summer or fall to maintain a uniform shape will greatly reduce the amount of blooms it produces the following spring.*
The bottom line is, it’s just not that great of a plant!

I understand Forsythia’s appeal (for 2 weeks out of the year) but I would like to make some alternative suggestions for late winter/early spring bloomers that can have just as big of an impact while providing more seasonal interest and benefits for our ecosystem. 

So forget Forsythia and try something new this spring:

Perennials:

Bluestar (Amsonia hubrictii)
Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata)
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
Bulbs such as Crocus, Daffodils, and Iris
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)
Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

Shrubs: 

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) – late winter to early spring bloomer
Witch alder (Fothergilla) – early spring bloomer
PJM Rhododendron – early spring bloomer
Spice Bush – (Lindera benzoin) – late winter to early spring bloomer

Trees:

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Star Magonolia (Magnolia stellata) – one of the earliest spring blooming trees
Serviceberry (Amelanchier grandiflora)
Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Crabapple (Malus) – varieties range from early to late spring bloomers


Quick Note of Caution:

Keep in mind that all the plants listed here have a wide range of needs and growth habits.  Never hesitate to ask your local nursery expert which of these plants would work best for your particular application.  We’re always happy to answer questions as well. 

Thanks for reading!

– Megan & Brian
www.plantbydesign.com

logo

Plant of the Week – Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’

Why are viburnums so underused in landscapes?  That’s a great question!  They are one of the largest and most diverse groups of shrubs yet rarely find themselves in the average homeowners yard.  Now I do admit that the sheer variety of viburnums can be a bit overwhelming.  There is literally a viburnum for every application; it’s simply a matter of sorting through them to find one that meets your needs. This week we are showcasing the Winterthur Viburnum (Viburnum nudum).  It is also commonly called “Possumhaw” Viburnum.  We love it because it’s native, has a wide variety of uses, and benefits a host of pollinators and other wildlife with its abundance of flowers and berries.

Winterthur Viburnum

The Winterthur viburnum has more of a natural look and will get about 6 feet tall and wide.  It is extremely versatile with the locations it can be planted.  While it prefers a good amount of sun it’s also one of the best viburnums for shady areas.  It also tolerates wet feet so if you have an annoying area in your yard that’s sun deficient and tends to stay wet this could be a good option to try out.

It produces an abundance of flowers from April to May and is a favorite of butterflies.  However, one of the best reasons to plant this variety is the incredible show it puts on in late Fall.  The blue berries against a backdrop of leaves that showcase multiple shades of reds and purples is truly breathtaking.

Wintherthur Viburnum Fall Color

Now despite its seasonal interest this is not the best plant to use for foundation planting unless it’s used as an accent and has plenty of room to grow without blocking windows.  (Remember, the right plant + the right location = little to no maintenance.)  This one works best as a backdrop or around the perimeter of your yard.  It’s also best planted in groups so that you can receive the most from its incredible fall show (groups of 3’s planted about 4 feet apart works great).  It will lose all its leaves in winter but its unique bark provides interest nonetheless.

If your looking for more height use Viburnum prunifolium (Blackhaw) instead.  It has all the same great characteristics as the Winterthur but can reach heights of 12 to 15′.

The Winterthur Viburnum should be obtainable at most credible nurseries.  If you are in the Richmond, VA area we recommend Glen Allen Nursery for all your plant needs.  They carry a wide variety of viburnums and are happy to answer any questions you might have.  Check them out at: www.glenallennursery.com

If you have any questions for us simply leave a comment and we will be glad to reply.  Thanks for reading!

– Megan & Brian
www.plantbydesign.com logo

Bee-cause They’re Necessary

Nobody wants to get stung by a bee;  so it’s no surprise that many people shy away from planting flowering shrubs and perennials in fear that they will be attacked by a horde of bees on the way to their car each morning.  This is understandable (even though most bees are not aggressive), but the fact is we NEED flowering shrubs and perennials, particularly natives, to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

Honeybee_landing_on_milkthistle02

  This doesn’t mean you have to plant Rudbeckia right at your front stoop or Echinacea next to your favorite lounge chair on your back patio.  If bees are an issue for you, particularly if you are allergic, consider planting a large amount of bee loving flowers around the outskirts of your property or in a sunny area you rarely traverse.  Even just a few extra flowers in each yard can make a huge difference.

Here are a few bee loving perennials we use often:

  • Asclepias (butterfly weed)
  • Echinacea (coneflower)
  • Monarda (bee balm)
  • Rudbeckia (blackeyed susan)
  • Aster

So why are bees so necessary?  Check out this video and find out!

-Megan & Brian
www.plantbydesign.com
logo

Excited For Spring!

We at Plant by Design are excited that spring is just around the corner!  We know it may be hard to imagine with next weeks frigid forecast looming over us, but warm weather is fast approaching none the less.

To better keep our customers updated with the happenings at Plant by Design, we have created this blog.  We will regularly post pictures and descriptions of jobs we are working on as well as gardening tips and interesting articles we come across.  We feel as professionals it is our duty to educate; therefore, our goal is to make this blog a valuable horticultural resource for all those living in the Richmond, VA area.

We thank all of you for making Plant by Design possible.

Sustainable Landscaping with Native Plants Richmond, VA

– Megan and Brian
www.plantbydesign.com
logo