Introduced in 1998 at the famed Chelsea Flower Show in England, this double clematis steals the spotlight in any planting. Flowers unfurl in shades of lilac, with a lighter ruffed center. The outer, largest petals (botanically they’re called tepals) fade and drop, leaving a petal pompom in the center of blooms. Flowers last up to 4 weeks, filling the summer garden with striking color. For best flowering, remove top growth by one-third in early spring. Vines grow 6 to 8 feet tall by 3 feet wide. Grow on a trellis or fence, in a pot or through a shrub rose. Hardy in Zones 4 to 9.
Choose this magnolia if you want a traditional tree-size bloomer. Large white flowers tinged with a hint of pink appear on branches in spring. The blossoms boast 15 or more petals and open to 3.5 inches wide. ‘Merrill’ magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri) is an heirloom plant, developed at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston from seed planted in 1939. The formal name ‘Merrill’ came in 1952, honoring a former Arboretum director. This magnolia is a full size tree, growing 20 to 60 feet tall and 20 to 45 feet wide. Use it as a lawn tree or part of a shrub border. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
Creamy gold-toned blossoms welcome spring on Honey Tulip magnolia (Magnolia ‘JURmag5’). Opening to 6 inches across, the goblet-shape flowers cover the tree in early spring. This magnolia has a narrow growth pattern, reaching only 4 to 6 feet wide. It fits neatly into small gardens or can play a supporting role in a larger landscape. Count on Honey Tulip to provide spring color in a shrub or perennial border. Trees grow best in full sun to part shade with well-drained soil. Flowers unfurl before leaves appear, creating a stunning showpiece in a yard. Plants grow 10 to 15 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
‘Jane’ magnolia was developed in the 1950s as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture plant breeding program. It’s one of eight magnolia hybrids known as the Little Girls. Of these magnolias, ‘Jane’ flowers the latest, about four weeks later than similar types. This late flowering window means your plant is less likely to suffer frost damage to blooms. Magnolias dislike being moved, so choose a planting spot with care (aim for full sun). Keep the root zone mulched. The right time to prune is after flowering, but this is rarely needed. ‘Jane’ forms a multi-stemmed shrub or small tree, growing 20 to 25 feet tall and up to 20 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
Rain gardens can even pop up and work effectively on parking lot areas. After removing asphalt, a rain garden basin could be built along this parking area of Totem Ocean Trailer Express, a shipping and cargo company at the Port of Tacoma, Washington. A traditional rain garden basin planting features a mix of shrubs, perennials and ground covers. The green container is a rain garden in a box. Rain gardens at this site handle roughly 250,000 gallons of rain water runoff annually, which reduces the amount of toxic pollutants washing into nearby Commencement Bay. If designers can build a working rain garden on a parking lot, you can make one work in your yard.
Large flowers open 7 to 8 inches across on Summerific ‘Perfect Storm’ hibiscus. This dwarf perennial hibiscus brings down the height of this perennial beauty to a tidy 3 feet, making it a perfect addition to a perennial or shrub border. Dark burgundy leaves complement the white flowers with red eye, which appear from midsummer through early fall. Perennial hibiscus appreciates moist soil and is one of the last perennials to pop through soil in spring. Plants grow 30 to 36 inches tall and 54 to 60 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9. You can also find taller perennial hibiscus that grow 5 feet or more.
Few plants symbolize fragrance like roses. This group of plants features shrubs, climbers, miniatures—and all sorts of other wonderful types. Flower color runs the gamut, including white, deep burgundy (almost black), lemon yellow and a host of other hues. New rose introductions like the Easy Elegance collection feature disease-resistant leaves with strong winter hardiness (Zones 5-9). Kiss Me (Rosa ‘BAIsme’) unfurls richly petaled blooms reminiscent of old English garden roses—and redolent with fragrance. Other roses packed with perfume? A few that have stood the test of time include ‘Autumn Damask’ (Zones 5-9), ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’ (Zones 6-9), ‘Double Delight’ (Zones 3-9), ‘Mister Lincoln (Zones 5-9) and ‘Roseraie de l’Hay’ (Zones 3-9).
Kodiak Orange diervilla is a shrub for the ages. This native plant delivers bright leaf color all season long, drought tolerance, deer resistance and non-stop blooms. It’s also versatile, growing in sun or shade, including the tough environs of dry shade. Diervilla is undemanding—no pruning is needed to keep it in bounds. Leaves emerge orange and hold color through summer. Yellow flowers appear all summer long. Fall winds up the show with blazing orange-red leaves. Plants grow 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-7. Good to know: Diervilla isn’t picky about soil, thriving in moist or dry locations. It’s a good choice for erosion control on slopes.
Purple flower clusters (8 inches long) cover this small tree all summer long. Blooms beckon pollinators of all kinds—it’s a great plant for a bee or butterfly garden. Gray-green leaves have purple undersides that complement blooms. Look for other chaste tree varieties with flowers in shades of pink or white. The branch structure is very architectural and adds good winter interest to a landscape. If your chaste tree develops lots of twiggy growth and starts looking more shrub-like, prune it in late winter. Remove all smaller twigs along five or six major trunks to create a tree-looking plant. Size: 6 to 8 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 6-9.
Star magnolia bursts into bloom in early spring, when the first daffodils are just starting to show color. ‘Centennial Blush’ star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) opens pale pink flowers rich with fragrance. Blossoms unfurl before leaves, staging a stunning show. Star magnolias flower best in full sun but tolerate part shade (they actually benefit from shade during the hottest part of the day in warmest zones). Feed plants in spring using a slow release shrub and tree fertilizer with sulfur and/or iron to help green the leaves. This star magnolia grows 12 to 18 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide. It’s hardy in Zones 4-9, which means it can welcome spring from Minneapolis, to Mobile, to Medford, Oregon.
For pruning branches over ¾ inches thick, you’re going to need a pair of loppers. These cutting tools come in handy for pruning shrubs, trees, roses, tall perennials with woody stems and even full-size sunflowers. If you’re investing in loppers, select bypass cutting blades (not anvil), and multiply your cutting strength up to three times with Fiskars PowerGear brand. The gears in this cutting design let you cut through branches far beyond your natural strength. Look for loppers with extendable handles to increase your reach. Loppers will handle most cutting jobs, but at some point you may need to expand your tool base to include a pruning saw and, for out-of-reach limbs, a pole saw.
Keep an eye peeled in lawns and planting beds for sapling trees. Often these trees, like this walnut sapling, sprout thanks to the diligent digging of squirrels. It’s especially easy to miss these beneath mature shrubs or roses, until you spot the leaves poking through the plant. The other place that seedling trees pop up are along fencelines, courtesy of birds who have been gobbling fruit, such as mulberry, cherry or holly. Small trees are easy to hand-pull. Grab a spade if they seem firmly anchored in soil. Keep an eye out for seedlings in spring when weeding or mulching. Remove any you see before they have a chance to develop a tap root.
As you select plants for your landscape, take time to place plants where they’ll thrive. Be sure to give them the right amount of sunlight, the proper soil and enough elbow room to reach their mature size. There’s nothing worse than planting a shrub you have to prune constantly to make it fit your space. If a plant catches your eye, like this Black Lace elderberry (Sambucus nigra, grows 6-8 feet tall and wide), do some quick research to learn if there’s another similar plant that might fit your spot better. Black Beauty elderberry grows even bigger (8-12 feet tall and wide), while Laced Up elderberry is the choice for small spaces, growing 6-10 feet tall and only 3-4 feet wide.
If you don’t have room for a 50- to 100-foot tree, check out Hot Wings maple. It’s a type of tartarian maple (Acer tartaricum ‘GarAnn’) discovered and developed in Colorado, which means it tolerates dry, alkaline conditions. Trees open typical small, yellow maple flowers in spring after leaves appear. Flowers fade to form bright red seeds (helicopters) in summer, which contrast brilliantly with the green leaves. Fall color features shades of orange-red and yellow. This is more of a spreading maple that can be grown as a shrub or small tree. Expect trees to grow 20 to 25 feet tall and 18 to 20 feet wide in ideal conditions. At higher elevations, Hot Wings grows 15 to 18 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 3-10.
English Rose 'Kew Gardens' is an unusual English rose with small, single flowers clustered in very large heads somewhat like a hydrangea. Though more like a species hybrid in appearance, it enjoys all the strengths of a David Austin rose. The young buds are soft apricot opening to pure white, with a hint of soft lemon behind the stamens. After bloom, small red hips which should be removed to encourage repeat flowering from early summer through the end of the season. It is extremely healthy, nearly thornless and produces masses of white blooms, lending the bush the appearance of being covered with snow. Its growth is bushy and upright. It makes a lovely flowering hedge. Repeat-flowering. Grows to approximately 5 ft tall x 3 ft wide. RHS "Award of Garden Merit." (David Austin 2009, Ausfence).
A leaf rake comes in handy for moving leaves, pine cones, fallen fruit and other tree-related items. Look for an ergonomic design that makes the task an easy extension of natural body movements. Choose a wide head with springy tines to make quick work of cleaning large areas. For raking leaves from around shrubs, select a rake with a small head and shorter handle. Use a lawn rake with thin tines to gather grass clippings or clean up the lawn after winter. A bow rake is handy for soil prep in vegetable gardens and new beds, as well as raking gravel areas. A small hand rake earns its keep if you have planting beds beneath trees. Its widely spaced tines let you remove leaves without damaging plants.
Cutting tools are vital to successful gardening. Start with the dynamic duo of hand pruners or shears and loppers. Hand pruners are the tool of choice for stems up to ¾ inches thick. It’s a go-to tool for deadheading or pruning perennials, trimming new growth on shrubs and snipping thick pepper and squash stems. With hand pruners and loppers, a bypass blade design (blades work like scissors) give you more cuts and versatility in the garden. Also invest in a sharpening tool of some type, along with lessons on use. Clean and sharpen cutting blades regularly to keep them in tiptop shape. Last but not least, pick up a good pair of sturdy scissors (bright handles are preferable—helps in not losing them in the yard). You’ll grab those for snipping twine, herbs, flowers for bouquets, greens and a host of other items.
Bagworms are the larval form of a moth that attacks evergreens and other trees. The worm inside each bag feeds on the evergreen bush or tree, building a case around itself for protection from predators. The case is made from bits of the plant the insect is feeding on and slowly enlarges over time as the insect grows. Females lay eggs in the bags in late fall. The best control, if you only have a few bagworms, is to handpick the bags and drop them into soapy water or put them out with the trash. Predatory insects including wheel bugs or insect-eating birds will attack these insects, even inside their bags. You can also spray traditional or bioinsecticides. Follow directions carefully on timing. Once larvae are more mature and tucked into thicker bags, the chances of a spray reaching the worm itself are small.