Planting? Here are some “off the beaten path” ideas

“Tell me more!”

That was the response I received from a number of readers to a recent column in which I suggested some landscaping plants that you might not have considered.

In that column, I discussed the merits of Pink Flowering Almond, Sourwood trees and colorful varieties of Althea. If you missed it, you can find it archived under the “Plant Man” heading at my Web site, Look for the column titled “Unusual plants add unique look to landscape.”

So, for those of you who want a few more ideas that are off the beaten path, here are some suggestions to get your creative juices flowing. As before, these are not outrageously exotic plants, but some might not be available from your local garden center. 

Rosa Rugosa “Alba”
When I see this classic “white hedge” Rosa Rugosa, it always conjures up a feeling of times gone by. I imagine neighbors greeting each other across the hedge as they fetch the morning newspaper from the lawn. Or, later in the day, sharing a pitcher of homemade lemonade in lawn chairs and enjoying the fragrance of the Rosa Rugosa.

I guess it’s the ordered, formal look of this Rosa Rugosa that suggests a bygone era. The white blossoms seem almost luminous against the dark green foliage. It can bloom from June almost to the first frost and creates a delightfully fragrant scent.

As a bonus, the Alba does well in just about any soil and is quite a fast grower, topping out at about 6 feet, if left untrimmed. Not always easy to find, but well worth the effort!

Japanese flowering Dogwood (Cornus Kousa
One of the problems with the popular white Dogwood is its susceptibility to disease. If that’s a concern of yours, this Kousa variety could be a very good alternative choice.

The Kousa has greater disease-resistance than the “regular” white Dogwood, has modest water requirements and is moderately tolerant of salt and alkali soils. It makes a great specimen tree, perhaps planted close by your patio, but I prefer to see them in groupings which can be very effective, and the clouds of white flowers look stunning in June.

There is also a pink flowering variety of the Kousa Dogwood. Like the white variety, it is disease-resistant. In addition to its pink blooms, the foliage turns from bright green to a brilliant red in the fall.

Bluestar Creeper (Laurentia fluviatilis
A couple of seasons ago, my wife Cheryl and I laid down a rustic pathway consisting of stepping stones that wind through a somewhat shady area of our garden. The stones look rather bare and we had been on the lookout for a suitable groundcover to introduce between and around the stones.

We attend a lot of plant shows and at the Atlanta show earlier this year, Cheryl found Bluestar Creeper and we decided this was the perfect solution. It forms a “mat” of mid-green foliage about 2 to 3 inches high and displays small, pale blue, star-shaped flowers in the spring.

It grows well in partial or lightly shaded areas, so it should do well around the stones in our woodland area. If you’re looking for a slightly out-of-the-ordinary groundcover, add Bluestar Creeper to your list of candidates!

Crape Myrtle Dynamite
So it’s not literally “explosive” (thank goodness) but in the summer, this particular variety of Crape Myrtle is covered with giant clusters of brilliant red blooms that resemble explosions that have been frozen in time!

“Dynamite” makes an attractive border or screen, but I think the most effective presentation is groupings of three, placed about 15 feet apart.

As always, if you’re having trouble locating these plants, or if you need advice or specific suggestions, drop me a line.