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Regional Picks: Plant This, Not That – South

Fine Gardening - Issue 138

1. Overused: Evergreen azalea

Alternative: ‘Kaleidoscope’ abelia

Name: Rhododendron spp. and cvs.

Name: Abelia × grandiflora ‘Kaleidoscope’

‘Kaleidoscope’ abelia

Name: Abelia × grandiflora ‘Kaleidoscope’

Zones: 6 to 9

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide

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

A new cultivar that stays somewhat short, ‘Kaleidoscope’ abelia has the colorful presence of an azalea without the lace-bug problems. This abelia blooms in late summer and has multicolored leaves as well as attractive, soft pink flowers. It is low maintenance and will keep most of its leaves during the winter months, unlike other abelias. This plant does need good drainage but is sure to dazzle when planted en masse.


2. Overused: ‘Bradford’ pear

Alternative: ‘October Glory’ red maple

Name: Pyrus calleryana* ‘Bradford’

Name: Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’

‘October Glory’ red maple

Name: Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9

Size: Up to 50 feet tall and 35 feet wide

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

A moderate- to fast-growing maple, ‘October Glory’ turns a brilliant red color in fall, lasting much longer than the three days a ‘Bradford’ pear stays in bloom. ‘October Glory’ also produces a nice central leader, giving it a beautiful round shape as it matures. Some slight pruning might be required as the tree grows­—but nothing serious. This tree may occasionally get insect borers, but it is easier to treat and keep healthy than the pest-prone pear.


3. Overused: ‘Helleri’ Japanese holly

Alternative: Dwarf yaupon holly

Name: Ilex crenata* ‘Helleri’

Name: Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’ 

Dwarf yaupon holly

Name: Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’ 

Zones: 7 to 11

Size: 5 feet tall and 8 feet wide

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

Dwarf yaupon holly is a great evergreen to use for screening or as a hedge because it is less temperamental than some Japanese hollies. It doesn’t get spider mites, crown galls, or cankers. And while other hollies usually need well-drained soil and suffer from either too much or too little water, dwarf yaupon holly is surprisingly tolerant of variable conditions. At first glance, you might easily mistake it for the ‘Helleri’ Japanese holly. The mature height for the dwarf yaupon holly is 5 feet, but it takes well to shearing if you prefer to keep it more compact.


Jimmy Rockett owns Rockett’s Bug Juice Gardens, a retail garden center in Birmingham, Alabama.

Photos: courtesy of Jimmy Rockett, Michelle Gervais, Martin Hughes-Jones/www.gardenworldimages.com, Stephanie Fagan, Bill Johnson, courtesy of Estabrook’s, Steve Aitken

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