By Jane Milliman
Looking for some easy-care woody plants to add structure and flair to your Northeast garden? Here are some that perform remarkably well in our cold climate -- and look great doing it.
I’ve been seeing these Knock Out roses everywhere in the landscape -- including my own -- and with good reason. They’re compact, bright, and disease-resistant, and should bloom straight through to a hard frost with just a little deadheading.
Boxwood has a reputation for being somewhat difficult, but the newer crosses, such as ‘Green Velvet’ and ‘Green Tower’, are as easy as cake. Let them grow wild, or shear them to shape -- it’s up to you. Either way you get a soft, sturdy, cold-hardy evergreen you can use in countless situations.
Spirea is another woody plant you see a lot, especially in commercial plantings (the mark of a truly tough, easy-care plant). This is another shrub you can shear to shape or let loose, though in my opinion it’s much prettier in its natural form. Getting too big? Cut it back to about 18 inches after bloom. It’ll bounce back in no time.
My favorite spireas are the traditional bridal veil or bridal wreath types, but this year ‘Neon Flash’ grabbed my attention. I’m helplessly drawn to anything that’s a true magenta.
On my last trip to Lowe’s, I found these amazing weeping Norway spruces at an even more amazing price. Imagine one of these unique specimens gracing your entryway, or anchoring a prized mixed border.
Here is what those weeping Norway spruces look like in just a few short years. They don’t take up a lot of space -- and only continue to grow more impressive with age.
There are few shrubs that sport prettier foliage than the smoke bush (Cotinus spp.). Most gardeners don’t know that because they let the shrubs grow into small trees. However, if you cut back the plant to the ground each year, you get fresh, healthy foliage that’s a foil for almost any color you put against it. The one pictured is called ‘Grace’, but you can choose from many gorgeous varieties, including ‘Golden Spirit’, a true chartreuse.
Finally, consider, a true workhorse of the garden, the shrubby dogwood (Cornus spp.). Like smoke bushes, dogwoods look great if you cut them back every spring, so their new bright-red or yellow growth can shine in winter. But even in summer their handsome, healthy foliage and white clusters of berries look beautiful, and attract birds.