As we seek to become better stewards of the earth, there has been a growing interest in the use of native plants in landscape design, and with good reason. Since native plants are already naturally selected to thrive to our area, they generally require less water and minimal fuss to keep them alive, while providing food and shelter for wild birds, and often natural resistance to deer damage.
As designers, we know it’s important to balance beauty with function and practicality in the landscape – to find that blend of pop, pizzazz and functionality, while harmonizing with the natural environment. Above all, it is important to create strong lines and areas of differentiation and organization, especially in the area around the house. Many native shrubs, however, can be twiggy and unconstructed in their growth.
Here are a few natives that are well suited to the foundation, that offer remarkable structure and beauty.
Mounding and evergreen plants:
Mountain Laurel – dwarf varieties are available, such as ‘Elf’ and ‘Minuet’; also inkberry ‘compacta’. Leucothoe, such as ‘Girard’s Rainbow’ or ‘Silver Run’ give a nice show of variegated leaves in shady areas.
‘Gold Cone’ is a very cool variety of juniper that adds a pop of year-round bright color. ‘Sky Rocket’ or ‘Moonglow’ are blue-tinged columnar junipers.
Deciduous shrubs or small trees (use sparingly as an accent in foundation plantings) – viburnum, most varieties, sand cherry, winterberry and redtwig dogwood (try ‘Ivory Halo’)
Flowering Dogwood is a native favorite, Witch Hazel is a lesser- known native ornamental tree/shrub with unusual yellow or orange flowers in early spring or fall. Serviceberry, also known as Shadblow, is a taller native with white flowers in spring.
Groundcover: Bearberry and wintergreen are nice evergreen natives with pretty berries.
The best landscaping is that which combines the artistic influence of man with the beauty of nature. A mix of native plants with strong lines, interspersed with a few softer, more feathery forms and some non-native beauties is a great way to have that gorgeous landscape and be ecologically minded, too..