Shrubs and Ground Covers

Abelia

Abelia (Abelia spp.)

Abelia is a semi-evergreen shrub that gets 3-6ft tall and wide and once established they are drought tolerant. This plant makes an awesome foundation plant, hedge or in a mixed border. This woody shrub bears small, white to pink tubular flowers that attract butterflies, bees and occasionally a hummingbird. Their leaves are small/medium and elongated; that come in assorted shades of green and variegated styles.

Ajuga

Groundcover

Dark-green foliage can be splashed with black, purple, burgundy and red highlights or even variegated exploding with deep blue, 2-inch flower spikes from early spring to early summer. This variety tends to offer taller, slightly more slender leaves. Also, commonly selected because its dwarf, low growth habits. Tolerates light foot traffic and ends out offering a brilliant contrast as a border edging, around shrubs and trees and even between pavers/stepping stones.

Andropogon (Big Bluestem)

Grass

Big Bluestem Grass, is a tall, warm season, perennial grass that is grown for its attractive foliage which seasonally changes color. It has an upright clump of stems with flattened leaves that emerge in spring a gray to blue green, the blades mature green with tinges of red in summer and change a reddish bronze with pale purplish tones after the first frost. Flower stems appear in late summer bearing purplish, finger-like flower clusters. Flowering stems make this grass 4-8' tall (usually taller in moist soils and the shorter in dry soils).

Arctostaphylos (Bearberry)

Groundcover

Bearberry, kinnikinnick or Creeping Manzanita is an evergreen shrub with small, thick, leathery, paddle-like leaves on flexible branches. This groundcover shrub has reddish, papery, peeling bark. The leaves are yellowish green in spring turning dark-green in summer and finally turning a reddish-purple after the first freezing temperatures. The pinkish-white, bell-shaped flowers appear in summer in small clusters off the bright red stems. Bright-red berries follow the flowers and persist into winter.

Berberis (Barberry)

Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

Japanese barberry is a spiny, broad and rounded to narrow and upright, deciduous shrub with small, round leaves. There are numerous varieties that come in all shapes sizes and colors ranging anywhere from the basic green to red, orange, yellow and purple. Leaves (variably sized to 1.25” long) typically turn beautiful shades of orange, yellow and red in fall. Most will mature to 5ft tall and wide.

Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia spp.)

There are many varieties of Butterfly Bush but the one that grows best in our climate is the Buddleja  davidii, some varieties of this cultivar are non-invasive that get about 6-8ft tall and wide; but there are some dwarf varieties that only get 1-2ft tall and wide. These plants are deciduous, have a vigorous, bushy habit and arching stems with showy, spike-like fragrant flowers. Flowers are clustered densely in showy panicle (6-18” long). Flower colors can be pink, violet, blue-purple, and white. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. Finely toothed, elongated, pointed leaves (6-10” long) are sage green above and fuzzy white beneath.

Buxus (Boxwood)

Boxwood (Buxus)

Boxwoods are known worldwide for their easy shaping and willingness to grow in almost any type of conditions! They make wonderful borders plants, hedges or topiaries and are an excellent choice for a foundation planting. Boxwoods grow best in full sun to deep shade and rich soils. These plants are evergreen, with dense foliage and slow growing.

Dwarf Boxwood - 1-2ft tall and wide

Variegated boxwood – typically 4ft tall and wide with cream colored margins

Upright Boxwood – 4-6ft tall and 1-2ft wide. Great for entry ways or in large pots.

Calamagrostis (Feather Reed Grass)

Grass

Reed grass is a cool season grass that primarily live in moist to wet areas. These grasses typically form large, dense clumps of narrow, flattened, green leaves 18-36” tall and 24” wide. Flowers rise stiffly above the clumps almost 5’ and begin bearing narrow flower plumes in midsummer. The flowers are followed by often persistent seeds that can last into the winter. The seeds are sterile.

Calluna vulgaris (Heather)

Groundcover 

Scotch heather or heather is a small, evergreen shrub that form thick mats of foliage. Tiny, scale-like leaves overlapping in pairs appear on thin stems that grow 24” tall and a few feet wide, there are varieties that only get 4” tall.  Leaves are usually gray to green starting in spring through summer but acquire bronze and purple tones from early fall through late winter. Rose to purplish flowers grow one-sided on spike-like clusters appear in mid to late summer.

Camellia

Camellias have about 300 species as well as 3,000 cultivars and hybrids; these plants are in the tea family. The most common Camellias sold are either japonica, sinensis or sasanqua. Most camellias desire shade or at best part-shade with protection from winter winds. They are slow growing and take time to establish but are long-living plants. Any excess chill, sun or even deep shade can reduce flowering.

 

Camellia sinensis – These camellias have large green leaves, mostly white (but has been known to have hues of pink to solid pink flowers) with 7-8 petals that will bloom heavily in the spring and again in the fall with less flowers. Growing 10-15ft tall and 6-10ft wide. They are much easier to maintain if they are kept at 3-4ft tall and wide. They can be pruned into a tree but are mostly seen as a specimen shrub, hedges, topiaries or espaliers. This camellia is most often used for green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong, pu-erh and other types of tea.

Camellia sasanqua – These camellias are densely branched, with a pyramidal to oval-round, tree-like shape that is evergreen getting 6-10ft tall and wide. They are known for their narrow, shiny, dark green leaves (3” long) with a fuzzy underneath side. Flowers are white, red, pink or mauve with bright yellow stamens. A mild fragrance with 6-8 petals bloom in late winter. Petals fall off after a few days, but the stamens remain. True species flowers are single rowed, but the cultivar varieties come in single, double or semi-double flowers. Following the flowers are small, smooth, green seed capsules. They are a drought tolerant that work well as an accent plant, hedge, or tall foundation plant.  It makes a good small tree if it is pruned up.   

Camellia japonica – This Camellia is an evergreen shrub that grows 6-12ft tall and wide. Oval leaves (3-4” long) are dark green that are both leathery and glossy with serrated margins. Flower bud will start to form as early as mid-summer; these camellias are early bloomers and will bloom in early spring when nothing else is really blooming. It adds color to a dormant landscape which can help those grey winter days. Blooms range in color from white, all shades of pink and red. The flower size can vary in size, ranging from a 2” diameter up to 5”; depending on the camellia variety, flowering can start in October and finish in mid-March. There are different cultivars that have different types of blooms such as a semi-double, peony, formal double, rose-form double, anemone, single flowers, but cultivars with or flower forms are available. Bloom time will usually last three to four weeks.

Carex (Sedge)

Grass

Sedge are some of the easiest to grow perennials and there are a few varieties that thrive in shady spots where most grasses don’t. They have a wide range of planting areas anywhere from hot and dry to shady and damp!! They have triangular stems that bear strap-like leaves and spikes of tiny green or brown flowers. Sedges can be anywhere from 1-2ft tall and wide. Tiny brownish flower spikes appear on triangular stems in spring. One of our favorite Sedge is the Carex ‘Evergold’!!

Chaemacyparis ( Cypress)

Cypress (Chaemacyparis spp.)

Most shrub Cypress get about 5-8ft tall and wide there are some smaller varieties that will only get 1-2 tall and wide; there are even some that stay conical but will only get 3-4 tall perfect for large pots or plants to frame the entry way.

Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince)

Flowering quince is a dense, round, broad, deciduous shrub with grayish brown bark that are tangled and barbed. It grows 6-10ft tall and wide. Leaves are finely serrated margins that are oblong, glossy and dark green (3.5” long). Scarlet-red, coral, pink or white, five-petaled flowers (2” diameter) bloom early spring before the leaves fully emerge. Flowers are followed by hard, speckled, yellowish-green fruits (2.5” quinces) that are edible but are bitter when eaten raw from the shrub but are quite tasty in preserves and jellies.

Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oat Grass)

Grass

Northern Sea Oat Grass is an upright, clump-forming, ornamental grass that is most distinguished by the flat, drooping seed heads which hang from clusters on thread-like stems. Plants will get 3ft tall and wide. Seeds will flutter even the softest of breeze. Seed emerge green but turn purplish by late summer. Bright green leaves turn coppery after the frost and eventually turning brown by winter.

Choisya (Mexican Orange)

Choisya is a medium sized evergreen shrub that grows to 6ft tall and 5-6ft wide. They take well to pruning and can be kept smaller than the 6ft. The oval, three lobed (trifoliate), green leaves (1-3” long) are shiny, with a slight smell of oranges when the leaves are crushed. Flowers are white, star shaped and fragrant (smells like orange blossoms) blooming in late spring to early summer. Some plants will bloom sporadically through the summer and even sometimes into the early fall. These plants work extremely well for covering footings, hiding utility boxes, understory trees, borders and creating lush backdrops for small perennials. Every garden, regardless of aesthetic and theme, needs hardworking, foundational shrubs that look good year-round. Some gardens need more: a shrub that also is deer resistant, flowering, easy to maintain, and tolerant of awkward partly shady spots. Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata) is that plant.

Cistus (Rockrose)

Rock rose are tough evergreen shrubs that grows 4-6ft tall creating a mound that is slightly wider than it is tall. It has narrow wavy edged leaves (up to 2" long), dark green above and greyish green below with a scent smelling of honey and pine.  Dark magenta-purple, white or yellow flowers (3” wide”) have a red spot at the base of each of the petals blooming in spring through summer. This is a drought tolerant plant that thrives in full sun.

Cornus (Dogwood Shrub)

Dogwood shrubs are deciduous with large green leaves that are great for erosion control, background planting, potted up, in a perennial garden, in formal hedges or can even be used as a border.  These plants usually get 6ft tall and wide. Their sprawling habit can for large colonies over time. They are airy in the center of the plant, but the different color twigs give interest through the leaves and make wonderful color splashes in the winter when the rest of the plants are bare. Twigs color can range from yellow to red and dual tones. Fall color is much like its tree form cousin with shades of yellow, orange and red. The flowers are tiny, white flat clusters that flower in late spring to ealy summer followed by white berries that ripen to blue in late summer or early fall. These shrubs have characteristics of dogwood trees on a smaller scale. They are shade tolerant and do well under large shade trees.

Cortaderia (Pampas Grass)

Grass

Pampas grass is a large, tough grass that creates a dense, arching clump with narrow green leaves that are serrated (extremely sharp, touch with caution) topped in fall with giant, feather-like, silvery-white rarely slivery-pale pink plumes reaching 6-8’ in length. Flower plumes are 1-3ft long and can rise 10-12ft tall on upright stems.

Daphne

Daphne is a broadleaf evergreen shrub that usually grows to 3-4ft tall and 2-4ft wide. Dark green leaves are leathery and elongated (4" long). There are some varieties that have a thin leaf such as Carol Mackie or Eternal Fragrance, some have variegated leaves, and some will bloom more than just in the spring like the Daphne transatlantica ‘Summer Ice’ that can bloom almost 6 months. Whiteish-purple to a reddish-pink flower with pale pink to white insides in clusters have an intoxicating fragrance. Flowers bloom in late February through April. Very rarely do these shrubs produce red fruits, but it they do they appear in July/August.

Delosperma cooperi (Hardy Ice Plant)

Groundcover 

Ice plant is a vigorous, spreading, evergreen succulent ground cover. This plant is a succulent mat forming ground cover that usually grows to 3in. tall and spreads quickly to 2-3ft. Succulent, fleshy, cylindrical, lime green leaves. Flowers resemble that of a daisy (2” diameter); colors can be bright reds, oranges, yellows, greens, pinks and purples and cover the plant from June to September. The neon colors intensify the ornamental interest of the plant.

Deschampsia (Hair Grass)

Grass

Tufted hair grass, is a clump-forming, cool season grass which typically forms a low, dense clump up to 16" tall. The dark green blades are very thin, arching, and flat. Tons of flower (silver, gold, green and purple) on top of 3ft stems that appear in summer are airy and wide which form a cloud over the foliage that is attractive when backlit. Flower panicles will turn a yellowish-tan after they bloom out and the seeds ripen and remain interesting through winter. One of the few ornamental grasses that grows well in shade.

Euonymus

The euonymus species is made up of about 130 species of shrubs, woody climbers and small trees. Euonymus includes many well-known landscape shrubs and ground covers, several which are best known for their fall foliage. There are many varieties that are evergreen, have variegation or vibrant foliage in the fall.

Burning Bush(Euonymus alatus) - The winged spindle tree , also called burning bush, is a  handsome shrub with corky winged stems. Getting about 6ft tall and just as wide. It loves full sun and it will show its best red Fall color if planted in full sun.

Japanese euonymus (Euonymus japonica) -this euonymus is a dense, oval, evergreen shrub that usually grows 10-15ft tall and to 5-8ft wide. Leathery, oval, dark green leaves (3” long) are rounded at the end of the leaf and tapered at the base. Leaf margins are serrated except near the base. Non-showy, four-petaled, greenish-white flowers bloom in June. Flowers are followed by showy pink fruits encapsulated with a red flesh which ripens in fall.

Euonymus fortunei (Euonymus ‘wintercreeper’)

Groundcover 

Wintercreeper euonymus is a dense, woody stemmed, broadleaf evergreen (in colder climates it is a semi-evergreen) plant that comes in a variety of forms. It may appear as a trailing ground cover, a mounding shrub or a climbing vine. Most of the wintercreepers have oval leaves that are opposite, glossy, slightly serrated, with light colored veins, about 1-2.5 in. long. There are varieties that are variegated with either white and green variegation, yellow and green variegation or combination of all three. The Winter foliage really makes the plants stand out! They can be shades of pinks, reds and oranges. Inconspicuous, greenish-white flowers with 5 tiny petals may appear in June. Flowers are at best sparse but are usually not present. Following the flowers are small round pink-red fruit capsules that split open and exposes their reddish orange seed.

Festuca (Fescue)

Blue Fescue Grass

Blue fescue is a semi-evergreen, short-lived, low-growing, clump ornamental grass that is noted for its blue-gray, finely textured. Foliage forms a round, urchin-like tuft of upright to arching blades that gets 6-8" tall, with the flower stalks the grass will end up being 10-14" tall. Purple tinged light green flowers appear in panicles on top of stems above the foliage in late spring through early summer but are not showy. Flowers are followed by puffy seed heads that some gardeners find attractive.

Forsythia

Forsythia is a fast growing, deciduous shrub with upright-arching, square-stemmed branches covered with oval to elongated oval, medium to dark green leaves (3-5” long and 1” wide) which have toothed margins in the upper half of the leaf. Most varieties mature 6-10ft tall and spreading to as wide as 12ft, but some compact varieties rise to only 30inches tall. Shrubs are grown for their vivid, 4-lobed, abundant lemony colored flowers (each 1.5in long) which bloom in clusters of 2-6 flowers along the branches in late winter to early spring. Flowers usually bloom before the leaves emerge but there have been some cases where they bloom at the same time. Fall foliage is the ordinary yellowish green but if you live in a colder region, they can occasionally turn purplish.

Fragaria (Ornamental Strawberry)

Groundcover 

Ornamental Strawberries are a perennial groundcover that is grown for foliage and flowers, not for its fruit. These strawberries form a compact mat, with spreading runners that will get 2-8 inch high. They have glossy dark green leaves and white or less commonly pink flowers in spring and summer that are replaced by small ornamental strawberries. The ‘Lipstick’ (Pink Flowers) blooms again in the fall with a lot less vigor that the spring bloom. Makes a good lawn substitute and can be cut back or mowed in early spring to encourage new growth. These plants can grow as far as you let them indefinitely if given the chance.

Galium odoratum (Sweet Woodruff)

Groundcover

Sweet woodruff is a mat-forming perennial that is grown in shady areas as a ground cover. The plants grow 8-12in tall. Leaves have a vanilla and fresh cut grass fragrance (fragrance intensifies if leaves are dried); lance shaped, dark green leaves in a spiral pattern of 6-8 along square stems. Small, 4-petaled, white, fragrant flowers appear in loose clusters in the spring

Hakonechloa macra (Japanese Forest Grass)

Grass

Japanese forest grass is a shade-loving, deciduous perennial grass. Gracefully arching, bright green leaves form a dense, spreading, cascading mound 12-18" tall and to 24" wide. The leaves resemble that of some types of bamboo. There are variegated varieties as well as the standard green leaved ones.

Hamamelis (Witch Hazel)

Witch hazel is a large deciduous shrub with bright, fragrant flowers during the winter. These plants can get 10-20ft tall and wide but are easily pruned to keep smaller and are virtually maintenance-free along with being resistant to most pests and diseases. Oval, green leaves (6” long) with serrated to wavy margins turn shades of yellow in fall. The flowers hug the stems in clusters of fragrant, bright red, orange and yellow flowers, each having four crinkly, ribbon style petals that appear late winter through early spring. Fertilized flowers will form fruit over a long period of time. The fruits are a greenish seed capsule that turn woody with age and eventually turn to light brown.

Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat Grass)

Grass

Blue oat grass is a clump-forming, cool season, ornamental grass that grows 2-3' tall. The foliage gets 2’ tall and wide; whereas the flower stalks get three feet tall. It has very narrow, spiky, steel blue leaf blades that form a round, Urchin-like clump. The Blue Oat Grass resembles that of a blue fescue (Festuca glauca) but is significantly larger. Spikes of bluish-brown flowers hang in an open, one-sided panicle that arches at the tip; appear on upright stems that rise well above the foliage clump in June. Flower spikes mature to a wheat color by fall.

Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon)

Rose of Sharon is an upright, vigorous, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub that typically gets 8-12ft tall growing in a vase shape. It can be shaped into an open hedge or trained as a small tree or espalier. Showy, hibiscus flowers have 5 petals (3” diameter) and has a prominent staminal column. Flower colors are red, pink, cream, white, purple and blue violet. Blooming over a long period, usually from early to mid-summer through early fall. The three lobed green (4” long) leaves are palmately-veined and coarsely-toothed; they’re attractive during the growing season but produce no fall color.

Hydrangea

Hydrangea macrophylla –Commonly called big leaf hydrangea, is a deciduous shrub with a round growing habit that grows 3-6’ tall and just as wide unless damaged or pruned to be smaller. It features  toothed, oval to elongated, dark green leaves (4-8” long) and large clusters of long term blooming summer flowers in either a “lacecap” form (flattened flower clusters of small florets  in the middle with sporadic showy four petaled florets usually forming a marginal ring) or “mophead” form (the traditional hydrangea style flower that are globe shape clusters of mostly showy sterile florets). Flowers come in shades of white, cream, pink, purple and blue.

Hydrangea paniculata – the panicle hydrangea is an upright, rapid-growing, deciduous shrub that  grows to 8-15ft tall and 7ft wide. It features oval to elongated, dark green leaves and upright, conical flower panicles (6-8” long) that contain both sterile and fertile flowers that bloom from mid-summer into fall. This cultivar is the only one that can be trained into a tree. Flowers come in shades of white and pink, there are many varieties that start off white and fad into a pink.

Hydrangea quercifolia –The oak leaf hydrangea is a broad, upright, multi-stemmed, suckering, deciduous shrub that grows 4-6ft tall with a rounded growing habit. It is known for its oak leaves (3-7 lobed and dark green) and for producing large pyramidal panicles of white flowers in summer. The branches have a peeling bark more so than any other hydrangea.

Hypericum calycinum (St. John's Wart)

Groundcover 

Evergreen to semi-evergreen shrub. Grows to 1' high & spreads by underground stems.  Leave are medium green in sun, yellow green in shade.  Bright yellow blossoms spring through summer.  Tough dense ground cover. Grows in full sun to full shade 12 to 18 inches prefers fertile, loamy well-drained acidic soil.