By Jane Milliman
Choosing hardy plants for your Northeast garden doesn’t have to be intimidating. There are plenty of ways to make sure that what you buy has a good chance to thrive.
First, shop locally. Lowe’s garden center managers and buyers are invested in your success, so they stock plants suited to your area. See a lot of a particular variety on your shopping forays? Chances are, it’s a good seller for a reason. No doubt it’s pretty and practical.
These weeping Norway spruces might look exotic, but when I visited my nearest Lowe’s last season, it teemed with dozens of healthy specimens in stock—very tempting.
Second, make sure to read tags. Plant tags teem with useful information, including USDA hardiness zones. Here in the Northeast our zones range from 3b, with an average low temperature of minus-30°F in the Adirondacks and northern Maine, all the way up to 7b, which dips only to about 5 or 10°F on Long Island. Know your zone.
Another way to determine what works well in your garden is . . . look around. If you live on the coast, you see lots of big-leaf hydrangeas and sea roses. New Jersey and southern New York are great areas for giant rhododendrons. Lilacs and panicle hydrangeas are ubiquitous in northern farmsteads and cemeteries. And Connecticut’s state plant is the mountain laurel.
Feel like branching out? Head to a nearby botanical garden, where you might be able to view some more unusual (yet perfectly hardy) specimens. My particular favorite is Cornell Plantations, part of the namesake university in Ithaca, New York. There I have encountered exotic lovelies such as big-leaf magnolia, species peonies, and hardy cyclamen.
Last, consider your microclimate. You can stretch your zone by carefully placing more tender plants. Little enclosed nooks, brick walls that collect and radiate the sun’s heat, and areas baffled from the wind are all good choices. This chartreuse-leaf fuchsia, technically a Zone 7 plant, has been happily growing for years tucked into a low stone wall in a Zone 5 garden.
Take a big step toward ensuring success in your garden. Stick with plants that are well adapted to your region’s climate.Learn More