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My Dream List for Landscape Plant Material

pieris, dorothy wycoff pieris

I’d like to see the nursery production industry make some newsworthy new offerings to supplement the amazing variety plants from which we have to choose. Here is my dream list from an ornamental landscape designer’s perspective. I understand I am asking too much, but it would be great to see more of these plants in the trade. Do you have anything to add to the list?

• Smaller, shorter cultivars of native tall shrubs that would be serviceable in ornamental landscapes.

• Any woody plant material that grows well and stays under two feet tall—something to use under windows in foundation plantings that isn’t a Juniper. The current short list selection for sun is either not very vigorous or invasive. An extensive selection of one-and-a-half-foot shrubs could bring back parterre gardens!

• Any sturdy, woody, evergreen plant material that grows well and stays under three feet tall—something to make a nice, perfect, low hedge without the pruning commitment. I’m tired of pruning.

• Anything that grows narrow and stays under six feet tall—something interesting with some slim height to plant adjacent to a front door—more ‘Dorothy Wycoff’ Pieris types.

• Something dense and evergreen for deep shade. Aucuba sp. and Morella sp. need some company to compete with trees in heavy, dry shade. We need more Cast-Iron-Plant types.

• Evergreens without painful thorns and needles. Some of the spiny Ilex species are painful! More Abelia sp., Berberis sp., and Nandina sp.-like plants without invasive issues.

• Something evergreen, but with a different foliage color than green. Loropetalums are so popular, but what about some orange and blue-leaved broadleaf cultivars? Why only maroon and chartreuse at this point?

• More small, colorful foliage trees like Sassafras sp., Lagerstroemia sp., and Rhus sp.—readily available, that provide super fall color for a residential site.

• More small, colorful trees like Aesculus pavia and the new Magnolia “girl” hybrids readily available, that provide superior spring blooms for residential sites.

• Low shrubs that can grow well at the edge of a large, mulched, consolidated grove of trees to provide a nice, clean, living edge—something besides Liriope or Azaleas. More facer plants.

• Shrubs that can be sold as no-prune alternatives to loose, open shapes. This could be a new series of small-scale, no-prune plants with strong, inherently geometric shapes—round, vase, columnar, square, spikey, swirled, flat, and weeping. It could be called the “get in shape” series.

• A shrub with cultivars that come in three or five differing heights to create a cool, multi-layered hedge using equal numbers of S, M, and L. They could form an interesting, undulating hedge by interspersing the different heights or they could be planted in clusters for a cloud-pruned effect.

• Baby shrubs that could be sold retail in two-inch and four-inch pots, rather than gallon containers—starter plants for lower budgets. Few people want to lug heavy, large containers of soil home in their personal car. Point of purchase stands could be incorporated into fresh flower sections of big box stores and groceries. This could be the beginning of a hugely popular planting movement! They could be called “pixie plants.”

This could be the beginning of a hugely popular planting movement! The green industry could come up with containers that biodegrade so consumers wouldn’t need to extricate them from plastic pots before planting. The top inch or two of the containers could be tear-away to prevent moisture wicking from the ground. I know I’m asking a lot, but wouldn’t it be great?  

Is That Too Much to Ask?