The Q&A Archives: What to plant?

Question: The front of my house is just plain ugly.
We face the south and have no tree shade at all.
We had a huge oak that had to come down because of the havoc it caused on our sewer line. We really don't want to go thru that again so to palnt another tree is out of the question. So we are left with a unatractive front yard. My dilema is, the soil is very dry and clay like. I have some lilies out there now but when they are not in bloom the front looks bad. What can you suggest that is inexpensive and can tolerates the conditions we have? We have about 23' of frontage, the bed is about 3' deep.
Thank you

Jennifer Furdock

Answer: I'd start with some shrubs and then fill in with drought-tolerant annuals and perennials for color. You'll find lots of low water use annuals and perennials in your local garden center. Low water use plants thrive in hot, dry locations such as you describe.

Evergreen shrubs are an important choice to consider for planting, in order to insure green color presence during the gloomy days of winter. Many gardeners want an evergreen shrub as a hedge to maintain privacy when cold weather arrives. Anise, Illicium florianum grows into small hedges in resorts like Sea Island, Georgia, and exotic red flowers and liquorish aromas rise from the leaves in the summer. Acuba japonica variegata 'Gold Dust' is also called the Gold Dust plant. Acuba makes an interesting low growing shrub to plant and grow next to brick buildings. Boxwood, Buxus microphylla asiaticum, is also salt water tolerant with dense coloring throughout the zones 5 ? 9. Boxwood is one of the most important and popular shrubs to buy in the U.S, notably as a neat, clean grower, Boxwood is not fast growing, thus requiring many years to reach 3 feet in height. Boxwood plants are commonly planted in rows along walkways. Larger boxwood plants work nicely in group plantings in front of buildings

Eleagnus, Eleagnus pungens, is one of the fastest growing shrubs and grows as a superb barrier hedge or privacy fence that can grow up to 10 feet tall. Eleagnus is salt water tolerant, and can be grown in containers at commercial locales. Interstate highway landscaping is filled with large groupings and plantings of Eleagnus, Eleagnus pungens, shrubs to minimize automobile fumes and truck highway noises.

Holly shrubs are distinctively varied, very adaptable, and versatile in the landscape. The most popular hollies are: Burford Holly, Ilex cornuta; Carissa Holly, Ilex cornuta 'Carissa'; Dwarf Chinese Holly, Ilex cornuta; Dwarf Japanese Holly, Ilex crenata; Helleri Holly, Ilex crenata; Needlepoint Holly, Ilex cornuta 'Needlepoint'; Sky Pencil Holly, Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil'; Savannah Holly, Ilex x attenuata; Stokes Dwarf Holly, Ilex vomitoria 'Stokes Dwarf'; Dwarf Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria; Weeping Yaupon, Ilex vomitoria pendula.

Japanese Aralia, Fatsia japonica, is most commonly called Fatsia. In landscapes, Fatsia is often planted and grown in large groups near shaded house entrances or underneath shade trees for that bold tropical look. Fatsia can be planted as a large specimen plant, or containerized Fatsia will grow as the shrub as an indoor plant. Philodendron selloum is often used like Fatsia, and can grow into a large, attractive specimen plant on slender, woody-looking trunks (stems). The Philodendron hybrid, Xanadu, is also used like Japanese aralia, Fatsia, and Philodendron selloum, but largely is used as an indoor or outdoor container plant. The waxy, deeply-lobed green leaves are very cold hardy, and even if Philodendron is growing outside in Zone 5 - 10, it will come back to life from vigorous roots in the spring after freezing to the ground.

Pittosporum tobira can be grown as an outside plant or as a containerized shrub. Pittosporum plants displays bright green leaves year and grows best in shady areas of low light. The flowers are small, white, and very fragrant, like the aromatic crushed leaves. Florists use stems and leaves as fillers in floral arrangements. Pittosporum shrubs are not fast growing, but eventually can form an excellent privacy hedge to block out automobile noise and fume emissions. Because Pittosporum tobira shrubs are salt water tolerant, these shrubs are popularly used in landscaping at Sea Island, Georgia. Large specimens of Pittosporum tobira are used as evergreen small trees, that subtly present an exotic, tropical appearance. Pittosporium tobira "Variegata" has variegated white and light green leaves with fragrant white flowers, blooming in the summer. The variegated leaf form of Pittosporum tobira is not burned by strong sunlight, like most variegated shrubs.

Hope this helps get you started in a fabulous new landscape!

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