Planting Plan for a Mature Garden Makeover

Fine Gardening – Issue 210

In the article How to Make Changes to a Mature Garden, Laura Trowbridge explains how her long border acquired its present appearance:

“It was a difficult decision, but last spring I took down some of the largest trees with the hope of getting my full-sun border back and bringing plantings back into scale. Although each tree left a big hole, I knew that the existing sun-loving perennials and shrubs would fill in over time. In the meantime, I planned to fill the gaps with annuals that grow tall and wide, such as flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris, annual) and ‘Amistad’ sage (Salvia ‘Amistad’, Zones 9–11). I also intend to add a few more shrubs for structure and easy maintenance.”

See more of this garden here. Learn what plants are in Laura’s border below.

A slow-growing tree in a sunny border (photo above)

  1. ‘Profusion Apricot’ zinnia (Zinnia ‘Profusion Apricot’, annual)
  2. ‘Purple’ globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa ‘Purple’, annual)
  3. ‘Standing Ovation’ little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’, Zones 3–9)
  4. ‘Tinkerbell’ flowering tobacco (Nicotiana ‘Tinkerbell’, annual)
  5. ‘Autumn Moon’ full-moon maple (Acer shirasawanum ‘Autumn Moon’, Zones 5–7)
  6. ‘Royal Purple’ smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’, Zones 4–8)
  7. Nettle-leaved mullein (Verbascum chaixii, Zones 5–8)
  8. Yellow catalpa (Catalpa ovata, Zones 4–8)

mature garden planting plan

Cutting back shrubs keeps plants proportional

  1. Tiger Eyes® sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’, Zones 3–8)
  2. ‘Tardiva’ panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’, Zones 3–8)
  3. ‘New Zealand Purple’ castor bean (Ricinus communis ‘New Zealand Purple’, Zones 9–11)
  4. ‘Bronze Beauty’ heuchera (Heuchera villosa ‘Bronze Beauty’, Zones 4–9)
  5. Bunny tail grass (Lagurus ovatus, Zones 8–10)
  6. ‘Profusion Apricot’ zinnia (Zinnia ‘Profusion Apricot’, annual)
  7. ‘Blue Dwarf’ Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi ‘Blue Dwarf’, Zones 4–8)
  8. ‘Tinkerbell’ flowering tobacco (Nicotiana ‘Tinkerbell’, annual)
  9. Princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa*, Zones 5–8)
  10. Mystic Illusion dahlia (Dahlia ‘Knockout’, Zones 8–11)
  11. ‘Golden Spirit’ smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’, Zones 4–10)
  12. ‘Burgundy Spice’ sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus ‘Burgundy Spice’, Zones 6–9)
  13. Variegated bulbous oat grass (Arrhenatherum elatius var. bulbosum ‘Variegatum’, Zones 4–9)
  14. Summer Wine® Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Seward’, Zones 3–7)


Dramatic editing brings more light

numbered plants in a long border

  1. ‘Limelight’ panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’, Zones 3–8)
  2. Variegated road-leaf Sedge (Carex siderosticha ‘Variegata’, Zones 4–9)
  3. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum, Zones 4–8)
  4. Small globe thistle (Echinops ritro, Zones 3–8)
  5. Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris, annual)
  6. ‘Grace’ smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’, Zones 4–10)
  7. ‘Ogon’ spirea (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’, Zones 4–8)
  8. Snow on the mountain (Euphorbia marginata, Zones 3–11)
  9. ‘Purple’ globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa ‘Purple’, annual)
  10. ‘Profusion Apricot’ zinnia (Zinnia ‘Profusion Apricot’, annual)
  11. Sea kale (Crambe maritima, Zones 5–9)
  12. Zinnia ‘Benary’s Giant Salmon Rose’ (Zinnia elegans ‘Benary’s Giant Salmon Rose’, annual)
  13. ‘Gateway’ Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum ‘Gateway’, Zones 4–8)
  14. Princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa*, Zones 5–8)
  15. ‘Goldflame’ Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Goldflame’, Zones 4–8)
  16. ‘Blue Star’ juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’, Zones 4–8)
  17. ‘Tardiva’ panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’, Zones 3–8)
  18. ‘New Zealand Purple’ castor bean (Ricinus communis ‘New Zealand Purple’, Zones 9–11)

*Invasive Alert:

Princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa)

This plant is considered invasive in AL, CT, GA, IN, KY, ME, PA, SC, TN, VA, WI, and WV.

Please visit for more information.

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