Regional Picks: Great Plants for the Front Yard – Midwest

Fine Gardening - Issue 139

White fringe tree

Name: Chionanthus virginicus

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9

Size: 10 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, fertile, well-drained soil

It’s a crime that this lovely native isn’t found in more gardens. With its fragrant spring blooms, glossy green leaves, and yellow fall foliage, white fringe tree flaunts a multiseasonal show. Both male and female fringe trees flower, but only the female cultivars produce blue fruit, which birds enjoy. Tolerant of Chicago’s hot, often dry summers, this small tree is not fussy about soil conditions and is generally disease and pest resistant.

‘Big Daddy’ hosta

Name: Hosta ‘Big Daddy’

Zones: 4 to 9

Size: 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide

Conditions: Partial shade; moist, well-drained soil

This big, beefy hosta sports thick slug-resistant leaves that grow about 10 inches long and 8 inches wide. I like to mass several together as an effective weed-suppressing ground cover, but you can also use this versatile hosta in foundation beds, along borders, or to hide the yellowing leaves of bulbs after they’ve finished blooming. For best results, water ‘Big Daddy’ regularly until it’s well established.



‘Summer Beauty’ ornamental chive

Name: Allium tanguticum ‘Summer Beauty’

Zones: 5 to 9

Size: 18 inches tall and 1 foot wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

A magnet for butterflies and bees, this deer-resistant, drought-tolerant plant blooms its head off in July and August in my roadside bed. ‘Summer Beauty’ ornamental chive serves as an attractive front-border plant and looks great even after it finishes blooming. Its mound of glossy leaves stays lush right up until the first frost. And don’t worry about it reseeding: Unlike culinary chives, its flowers are sterile.

‘Golden Mop’ false cypress

Name: Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’

Zones: 4 to 8

Size: Up to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; rich, moist, well-drained soil

One of my favorite four-season plants, ‘Golden Mop’ false cypress is a low-maintenance, feathery-textured dwarf evergreen that adds stunning color to the garden, especially on drab winter days. With its compact, rounded shape and threadlike foliage, ‘Golden Mop’ has a graceful presence. Although its chartreuse yellow glow isn’t always easy to work into a mixed planting, it works well with other evergreens or with ground covers, such as hellebores (Helleborus spp. and cvs., Zones 4–9) and epimediums (Epimedium spp. and cvs., Zones 5–9). In my front garden, four ‘Golden Mop’ mingle with Tiger Eyes sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’, Zones 4–8), ornamental grasses, and a host of other sun-loving perennials.


Nina A. Koziol gardens on a deer-infested acre outside Chicago and teaches at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Photos, except where noted: Gilles Delacroix, Garden World Images; top left, courtesy of Nina A. Koziol; top right, Michelle Gervais; center left, courtesy of Walters Gardens, Inc.

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