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GardenSMART :: Problem Solving Plants

Problem Solving Plants

By Stacey Hirvela, Spring Meadow Nursery
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners/ColorChoice Shrubs

Landscaping is often an exercise in problem solving: we may have an ideal plant in mind, only to find that it won’t thrive in our yards because our site or soil isn’t suitable. Fortunately, plants are wonderfully diverse and adaptable, so you’re guaranteed to find beautiful, landscape-worthy shrubs that withstand most any of Mother Nature’s curveballs.  Think of the plants listed below as the landscape equivalent of the old saying, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” – they tolerate and even thrive under the difficult conditions commonly found in backyards everywhere. This means less work for you and a better performance from your plants!

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Dry Soil

There are many reasons that a soil may be very dry: low rainfall, high sand content, compaction, or even because nearby trees soak up any moisture before other plants get the chance. Whatever the reason your soil is dry, you can count on the following plants to thrive in spite of it. It is important to provide ample water to all newly planted shrubs, however, and a 2-3” (5-7.6 cm) thick layer of shredded bark mulch is also a good idea.

Beautybush
Blue Mist spirea
Burning bush
Butterfly bush
Chaste-tree
Elderberry (photo, above)
Juniper
New Jersey tea
Ninebark
Potentilla
Privet
St. John’s wort

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Soggy Soil

Soils that are consistently wet or even soggy literally suffocate plant roots, depriving them of the oxygen they need to remain healthy. This causes root rot and rapid decline or even death of most plants. Fortunately, there are several excellent plants that have adapted to growing in these conditions. These plants are ideal for landscaping by ponds, streams, or anywhere soil tends to be wet.

Buttonbush (photo, above)
Dogwood
Inkberry holly
Pussy willow
Summersweet
Sweetshrub
Sweetspire
Virginia sweetspire
Winterberry holly

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Clay Soil

Clay soil characterizes much of North America. This soil type tends to be heavy and difficult to dig, so really, clay soil’s biggest challenge is simply planting in it in the first place. Start with smaller one and two gallon plants to make it easier. The following plants are good choices that, once properly planted, will become established quickly and live a long time in clay soil:

Arborvitae
Beautyberry
Diervilla  (photo, above)
Dogwood
Forsythia
Ninebark
Honeysuckle
Pussy willow
Summersweet
Winterberry holly

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Deer Browsing

Just like humans, deer have favorite foods (roses, arborvitae) and some foods that they simply don’t care for. No plant is completely deer-proof, though: deer may sample nearly anything, particularly if other food sources have been exhausted. They may also eat just the flower buds of some plants, like hydrangeas and rose of Sharon. That said, you can count following plants to be low on their list of preferred snacks:

Boxwood (photo, above)
Barberry
Bush honeysuckle
Butterfly bush
Elderberry
Forsythia
Juniper
Potentilla
Summersweet
Viburnum
Winterberry holly

Rabbits

Don’t let their cuteness fool you: rabbits are definitely one of the most destructive garden visitors. They can mow down a plant in no time, and often cause the most damage in winter, when they gnaw on bark and break the flow of water and nutrients through the stems. You can protect prized plants with a scent repellent; you can also try these varieties that they typically avoid munching on. (Note that most deer resistant plants are typically avoided by rabbits as well, with the notable exception of elderberry):

Butterfly bush
Clematis
Coralberry
Deutzia
Lilac
New Jersey tea
Rose of Sharon
Spirea
Juniper

 


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