Regional Picks: Plant This, Not That– Mountain West

Fine Gardening - Issue 138

1. Overused: Burning Bush

Alternative: Koreanspice viburnum 

Name: Eounymus alatus*

 Name: Viburnum carlesii

Koreanspice viburnum 

Name: Viburnum carlesii

USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8

Size: 4 to 6 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil; drought tolerant once established

From the minute the flower buds appear to the moment the last berry is eaten, Koreanspice viburnum earns its keep in any garden. It should be planted where you will be sure to catch its heady vanilla fragrance in April and May. Dense clusters of pretty little pink flowers will fade away and be replaced by dense, rich green foliage for the summer months. Come autumn, vibrant red and burgundy leaves steal the show, and red (maturing to black) berries provide a feast for the birds.

2. Overused: Amur maple

Alternative: Hot Wings® tatarian maple 

Name: Acer tataricum ssp. ginnala

 Name: Acer tataricum ‘GarAnn’

Hot Wings® tatarian maple 

Name: Acer tataricum ‘GarAnn’

Zones: 3 to 7

Size: 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide

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

If you love the fall color of amur maple but find that it’s rather boring the rest of the year, then tryHot Wings® tatarian maple. This cultivar has been described as “providing Christmas in July.” Its brilliant red whirlybird samaras hold fast for six weeks in summer and look every bit like blazing red flowers against the green leaves. It puts on an interesting show in fall, as well: The outside leaves turn orange-red and the innermost leaves a shade of yellow. Tough as nails and perfect for a small home garden, Hot Wings® is tolerant of alkaline soils and drought conditions once established.

3. Overused: Creeping moss phlox

Alternative: Table Mountain® ice plant

Name: Phlox subulata cvs.

 Name: Delosperma ‘John Proffitt’

 Table Mountain® ice plant

Name: Delosperma ‘John Proffitt’

Zones: 4 to 9

Size: 2 inches tall and 18 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun; sandy, well-drained soil

I want plants that perform for months, not ones that look good for just a couple of weeks. Enter Table Mountain® ice plant. From mid-May until a hard killing frost, this plant shines. Its star-shaped fuchsia blossoms pop against glossy green succulent leaves. Hot weather boosts its performance; too much water—especially in winter—is a bad thing. A great ground cover, Table Mountain® pairs beautifully with clematis vines to cool their roots. Cold weather adds a purplish tinge to the foliage.

Mary Ann Newcomer served on the board of directors for the Idaho Botanical Garden for more than a decade and is currently working on a book about native plants of the Mountain West.

Photos, except where noted: Bill Johnson, courtesy of Mary Ann Newcomer, Susan A. Roth, Jerry Pavia, courtesy of

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