"Easy care" plants for the horticulturally challenged!

"I have a brown thumb," a reader of this column recently moaned.

She meant that she had the opposite of a "green thumb," a description we often apply to people who seem to have a knack of growing just about anything successfully. Our "brown thumb" reader went on to say that she seemed to have no luck at all when it comes to keeping plants alive and thriving.

This luckless lady was one of several who have asked me for some tips on foolproof trees, shrubs and plants that even THEY are unlikely to kill!

Today, I'll tell you about some of my favorites that are easy to plant and easy care for.

But first, a quick note about natural snake repellents. Sometimes, a newspaper editor has to cut part of a column when space is tight or a major news story is breaking. I heard from several readers who said that their newspaper had had to cut part of a recent column referring to the use of marigolds as a natural snake repellent. You can find the entire column archived at my web site here: http://www.landsteward.org/page.cfm/18923 or you can send me an e-mail and I will reply with a "hot link" to the story you can click on!

Now on to those easy-care trees and shrubs...

First of all, I have to say that no plant is truly foolproof (or kill-proof) and you definitely put the odds in your favor when you select plants that are most likely to thrive in the conditions they will find in your landscape. So determine if you will be planting in the shade or direct sunlight, in sandy or clay soil, and so on. When you pick plants that prefer those conditions, you're already ahead of the game.

Having said that, there are a number of trees and shrubs that are tolerant of different climates, soil types and conditions, and are not particularly demanding of your time or skill-level when it comes to caring for them.

Here are a few you might want to consider if you are somewhat "horticulturally challenged"...

Cedar Green Giant Regular readers will know I'm a big fan of this one. It's one of the toughest and fastest-growing of all the conifers. If you want to screen your landscape from neighbors or the highway, this is an excellent choice. It needs no shearing or pruning. It is able to withstand drought well, exhibiting no significant pest or disease problems, and is highly deer and bagworm resistant. Although Green Giant prefers direct sun, it works well in shady areas too.

Rosa Rugosa Sometimes called "the living fence," this one is fairly husky and extremely disease resistant. It does well in just about any soil and is winter-hardy all the way to Zone 2. (If you're not sure of your Plant Hardiness Zone, send me an e-mail telling me where you live and I can help you.) The fragrant blossoms are followed by very large orange-red hips in late summer and last all winter.

Aristocrat Flowering Pear (Pyrus calleryana) I like all the flowering pears, but Aristocrat is one of my favorites. Why? Because the word "adaptable" describes it perfectly! It is pest resistant and tolerates drought, poor drainage and just about any soil. It can thrive despite the effects of moderate winds, smog, and extreme temperatures. See what I mean about adaptable? And because its branch angles are wider than other pears, the Aristocrat is more resistant to storm damage.

Hybrid Lemon Yellow Daylilies These guys come back year after year, growing larger and displaying more blooms. In fact most daylilies are fairly undemanding when it comes to ongoing care, but you might want to start with this one. As long as they are pretty much exposed to full sun, they can do well in almost any soil type.

Rose of Sharon Hibiscus This one does well in either full sun or partial shade and will be very tolerant of your soil conditions! You don't have to prune it if you don't care to. Leave it alone and you'll get a larger number of small flowers, or prune it back for fewer but larger flowers. The single or doubleflowers are in shades of red, pink, white and purple, depending on the cultivar, and another nice feature is that it blooms in mid to late summer when few other shrubs are in bloom.