||Ten Under-Utilized Shrubs...|
Randy lists his choices
If you’ve ever listened to my radio program, you know that there
are some plants that just have problem after problem, year after
year. But you can eliminate many of those problems if you’ll
start incorporating plants/shrubs that don’t have all those insect
and disease pressures. It is in my humble opinion that if everyone
planted the majority of their landscapes in the shrubs I’m about to
recommend I might just put my call-in radio show out of business.
That’s because this upcoming list of “underutilized plants” won’t
have near the problems that the “over-utilized” plants have in our
climate. You may not entirely agree with my list.
this is MY list and one that I’ve put together after years of
hearing complaints about the “most over-utilized” shrubs.
(Examples of the overused shrubs are Red Tip Photinias and
Ligustrums.) What I hope to accomplish with this list, is to make
you well armed when re-doing a landscape or putting in a brand
new one this year. Thus, you may be looking for something
different this year that isn’t disease-prone, insect-prone nor will it
be high-maintenance. Without further ado... I give you the...
TEN MOST UNDER-UTILIZED LANDSCAPE SHRUBS-
ELAEAGNUS– If you’re looking for a screen plant, look no
further. The Elaeagnus (I find it spelled Eleagnus too) makes
a perfect hedge row that doubles as a screen plant rather
quickly. It is also drought tolerant, and can seemingly put up
with water and temperature extremes that no mere mortal
shrub can handle. This also means that for the most part, this
is a sun-loving plant. But the most important aspect of the
Elaeagnus is the silvery (sometimes brown) dots that cover
the leaves, reflecting sunlight to give the plants a special
sparkle. I mentioned earlier that it is drought tolerant; so
much so that once established after 2 years, it can actually
survive with no additional irrigation.
TEXASWAX MYRTLE– If you’ve ever been around the
Woodlands or around Conroe you know the Texas Wax
Myrtle, and you may have even smelled one. I can’t make up
my mind what I like best about the Wax Myrtle. Is it the
expedient growth, the wonderful scent, or its imperviousness
to disease? There are lots of things to love about this plant.
The scent varies, but in most cases has sort of a spicy orange
aroma. The Wax Myrtle always seems to have lustrous
evergreen leaves, and can seemingly grow a couple of feet
every year. It can be shaped, but when left alone the Wax
Myrtle provides a random hedge like no other. And this plant
can be grown in total sun or filtered light.
LORAPETALUM– The Lorapetalum that we have come to
love for landscape shrubs in the Southern reaches of Texas is
commonly referred to as the Chinese Fringe Flower. Besides
the stunningly bright pink blooms that have become so
synonymous with the Lorapetalum, I personally love the fact
that it seems to have contradictory maintenance attributes.
That means, if you want to keep it trimmed like a hedge, then
do so. If you want to train the Lorapetalum like a vine, then
do it. If you want to leave it be and let the lorapetalum form
arching or drooping tiers of branches, then do it. For my
Aggie Brethren out there, the next best thing about the
Chinese Fringe Flower would have to be the unique purple to
filtered light situations.
COPPERTONELOQUAT– This is one of those plants that
gets a little too confused with Red Tips, but doesn’t have the
same disease problems. The Coppertone Loquat was derived
from the Bronze Loquat, which provided for a rather coppery-
bronze-looking leaf at the top of the plant ala a red tip
photinia. Coppertone Loquats also have a creamy white
burst of flowers in early spring. And while they can be
trained on espaliers, and while they thrive in sunny, warm
environments, they should not be on a hot, west-facing wall.
Nevertheless, Coppertone Loquats must be in total sunshine.
VIBURNUM- Viburnums are versatile, dependable and
interesting in all seasons of the year. If you select the right
species you can have a wealth of fragrant white flowers in
the spring, glossy green leaves during the summer, attractive
autumn foliage and bright-colored fruits in late summer and
fall. Viburnums are sturdy shrubs and easy to grow.
Viburnums are virtually pest free, except for attacks by
aphids. Viburnums can be used as specimen shrubs or small
trees or in border plantings as they range from small to very
large. If properly located, the shrub should need only
moderate pruning to retain a desirable form.
NANDINA– Also known as Heavenly Bamboo. I love
Nandina, mainly because it does well in both sun and semi-
shady situations. This makes it versatile, plus it’s virtually
pest free. The one draw back is that it does have to be cut
back quite often. However, if you give the Nandina enough
room it can grow 6 feet tall. I like it kept at a 3 to 4 ft. range.
It belongs to the barberry family but is reminiscent of bamboo
in its lightly branched, cane-like stems and delicate, fine-
textured leaves. During the winter, it gets reddish, maroon
and golden colors to add to its attractiveness. Warning: I
don’t like the miniature Nandinas and that’s because their
leaves always looked gnarled. Stay with Nandina Domestica
to be safe. Or if you like the gnarled leaves go with the
SAGO PALMS– This is where I’m also sure to get some
disagreement. There are probably a few of you mumbling
under your breath that the Sago Palm is “over-utilized” right
now. I think not! And here’s why. The Sago is one of the
most versatile accent shrubs we can plant. The Sago can
succeed in total sunshine and total shade, and everything in
between. If you will keep the pups trimmed and the soil well
fed, the Sago will reward you with what I call a rather
majestic flourish year after year. But keep the pups/sports
trimmed constantly, or it looks awful as the pups push the
fronds around from their natural arching position.
NEEDLEPOINTHOLLY AND NELLIE STEVENS
HOLLY– This is another one of those all-purpose plants
that can survive shade or sun. But, for sure, the best thing
about needlepoint hollies is that they don’t hurt you the way
old fashioned holly bushes do. Needlepoint Hollies only have
one point on the very end and are infinitely more supple than
their more painful cousin. It also has another close cousin it
gets mistaken for quite often in the Burford Holly. But the
Needlepoint has a more supple leaf than the Burford too. The
way to truly tell the difference is the Burford leaf is cupped
down. Some people often call the Needlepoint (I think
mistakenly) a Chinese Holly. Nevertheless, it makes a great
hedge shrub in both sun and shady environments. The Nellie
Stevens Holly is a great “accent” tree that won’t get too big.
It also produces berries that attract birds. But the big
difference obviously is size. The Nellie Stevens Holly is
almost always a small tree, whereas the Needlepoint Holly is
a medium sized shrub.
NATALPLUM– While this may sound new to some folks,
the Natal Plum has been around for a while, but forgotten.
The Natal Plum is a fast-growing, upright, rounding shrub with
beautiful leathery, rich, green leaves and small spines. The
Natal Plum also has fragrant, white flowers that look
hauntingly like jasmine flowers. But the Natal Plums also
have a unique red, plum-shaped edible fruit. These wonderful
babies tolerate poor soil, heat and drought (Sounds perfect for
here don't they?) And if you want to see them in all their
glory, head to Galveston Island where they are all over the
place, especially in front the restaurants Gaidos and Tortugas.
Problem is - yep, you knew there had to be a problem - is
that they just aren't that readily available.
JAPANESEBLUEBERRY (SHOGUN SERIES)- The
Japanese is one of those newer plants that is gaining in
popularity. And watch for it this year locally at most of the full
service nurseries, mainly because some growers like Houston
Plants & Garden World, locally, and Monrovia Nurseries
have put it on a fast track. Despite its name the Japanese
Blueberry Tree, Shogun Series is not a fruit producing
blueberry tree, so just wipe that out of your head now. From
a distance it looks similar to a Coppertone Loquat, but it
grows more upright. It's very popular in the western states as
a street, lawn or park tree- bronzy new growth then glossy
green foliage. There's an ornamental effect from older leaves
turning bright red before dropping. It has numerous tiny
scented white flowers and blue-black, olive-like fruit in winter.
Yes, this is an evergreen that requires full sun. It can reach
35 feet tall and 20 feet wide, but with some consistent pruning
you can keep it shorter and thinner.
Until next week, here's to
Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard
exclusively weekend mornings from 8 to noon
on Talkradio 950 KPRC.
Powered by KPRCRADIO.com