Liberto’s Unusual and Trending Plant Picks
By: Julie Barnes
This September a field trip to Best Feeds was truly inspiring as our knowledgeable guide, Richard Liberto, presented us with more than 15 Unusual and Trending Plants. This horticulturist and owner of Liberto Landscape shared his expertise in using plants like these in many of his landscape and garden projects. Exceptional qualities such as multiple seasons of interest, outstanding spring or summer flowers, remarkable fruit, brilliant autumn leaf color, interesting winter bark, pollinator appeal or tolerance to adverse conditions made them stand out. I share these selections from Richard and various highlights about them:
1. Clethra- (Summersweet)-Fragrant, pollinator friendly ,showy white flowers (Racemes) in mid to late summer- Adaptable to average, medium, and wet soils in full sun to part shade
‘Hummingbird’- Gorgeous slow spreading shrub- Grows well in wet areas- white flower spikes attract butterflies- may produce great blooms in shady locations
‘Sixteen Candles’ -Compact (2-3ft) with candle-like spikes of honey scented white flowers. Leaves turn an outstanding harvest gold in fall.
2. Callicarpa (Beauty Berry)-Late summer-Small white blossoms produce bright lavender fruit
’Pearl Glam’- Offers 3 seasons of interest- dark purple colored foliage from spring to fall , distinct purple berries in fall attracts songbirds - full sun, part shade , drought tolerant
3. Rhus (Fragrant Sumac)-Non-poisonous, aromatic leaves produce dazzling fall color, very drought, deer & poor soil tolerant,(2-4ft)
‘Gro-Low’- Outstanding groundcover shrub (2-3ft.), orange red autumn leaves, great choice for slopes
‘Lacette’- Gracefully elegant, rounded shrub, small, lacy foliage turns vibrant red shades in fall, thrives in tough, sunny sites
4. Kousa (Chinese Dogwood)-15-30ft.-best in a protected site, part shade, blooms late spring, V- shaped
‘Little Poncho’ –Dwarf tree with a short trunk (6-8ft) – Late spring white flowers, late summer-stunning raspberry type fruits-attractive to birds, reddish purple leaves- autumn, mottled, peeling bark- winter
5. Thuja ‘Whipcord’- (Arborvitae ‘Whipcord’)-Dwarf slow growing shrub (3ft) with pendulous whip-cord like foliage that droops downward. Adds garden interest and also grows well in a container.
6. Illex crenata (Japanese Holly)-Dense, rounded evergreen shrub (5-10ft) with spineless deep green leaves, late spring -white flowers- black inconspicuous fruits in fall.
Illex helleri – Dwarf-rounded, slow growing (3ft tall & wide)-great planted in groupings or in a hedge.
7. Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’ (Japanese forest grass)-An excellent ornamental grass for shady locations. Delicate and airy with bright golden yellow leaves; Grows 2ft tall & wide
8. Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)- Native to woodlands - Coarse grass -grows in loose (8in.) green clumps with a weeping habit- Very tolerant of dry shade- Can be an excellent ground cover there
9. Parrota persica ((Persian Ironwood)-Grown as a 20-40ft tree or 15ft shrub- Outstanding fall leaf color changing to variable shades of yellow, orange or red. Exfoliating bark provides great winter interest.
10. Halesia ‘Arnold Pink’-(Carolina Silverbell)-Small understory tree –grows like a dogwood. (20-25ft). Spring- Showy bell shaped rosy-pink flowers; Striking four-winged fruit and bark persist into winter
11. Sambucus-(Elderberry spp.)(8-20ft), Aromatic spring flowers & edible fruits attract wildlife
‘Black Tower’-(6-8ft)-Stunning purple foliage, beautiful pink blooms, blackish-red berries, deer resistant
‘Lemony Lace-(5-6ft)-Compact, bright yellow to chartreuse foliage, spring white blooms, red berries
12. Heptacodium miconoides (Seven Son Flower) (15-25ft) -Late summer- sweetly fragrant-flowers appear within 7 branched clusters attracting butterflies and other pollinators, Autumn- flowers fall leaving behind eye catching red bracts, beautiful bark in winter
13. Illex ‘Berry Heavy’(Winterberry Holly) (6ft)- Deciduous- super showy female variety;-late spring – small white flowers develop into green berries- berries turn red –autumn, leaves turn bright yellow and drop leaving big red berries for pure winter landscape impact; a male pollinator must be within 50ft of this plant to produce berries.
14. Fothergilla ‘Blue Shadow’ (4ft)-Multiple seasons of interest: Teeming with fragrant, white bottlebrush-like flowers in spring before leaves unfold; summer- leaves mature to blue- green, turning brilliant shades of yellow, orange, &red orange- fall.
15.Hydrangea’Bobo’ (Hydrangea spp.) (2-3ft)-Panicle Hydrangea- Blooms- late summer / early fall on new wood- noted for its dwarf/compact mounded shape that becomes engulfed with large white flowers on strong stems with no flopping.