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Podcast: Let's Argue About Plants

Episode 16: Plant This, Not That

January 25, 2018

These replacements are better options than their overused or aggressive counterparts 

Are you tired of seeing the same plants over and over in nearly every garden you visit? Or perhaps you love the fall color of a certain shrub-but it’s horribly invasive, so you can’t in good conscience plant it. What you’re looking for are reliable replacements for overused-or incredibly aggressive-plants. It’s time to broaden your plant palette and ditch some of those classic staples (we’re talking to you Miscanthus) for some new, soon-to-be favorites.

Expert Mae Lin Plummer, garden director for The Duke Mansion in Charlotte, North Carolina.

There’s no denying the beauty of a redtwig dogwood (Cornus sericea, Zones 3-8) in winter. But, the rest of the year it looks like a boring green blob. ‘Elegantissima’ redtwig dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’, Zones 2-8) has beautiful variegated leaves to compliment those famous red branches, giving it some interest during all four seasons.
From a distance you’d swear variegated Japanese water iris (Iris ensata ‘Variegata’, Zones 4-8) was a clump of ornamental grass. In late spring, though, this plant pushes up scores of dark purple blooms giving it an edge, and, it doesn’t need to be divided as readily as many grasses.
You’ll have a hard time finding fall color as intense as that of burning bush (Euonymus alatus, Zones 4-9) but, Little Henry® sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Sprich’, Zones 5-9) comes pretty close, and this beautiful shrub isn’t invasive like the aggressive burning bush.
Fast-growing, shade tolerant vines are hard to come by, forcing many gardeners to rely solely on clematis (Clematis spp. and cvs., Zones 4-9) to fit the bill. Mae Lin Plummer, garden director for The Duke Mansion, thinks that more of us should plant the attractive Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla, syn. A. durior, Zones 5-8) instead.

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