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South Central Gardening: Favorite Trees and Shrubs

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Trees and shrubs provide color, texture, and winter interest to Oklahoma and Texas landscapes. Here are some to consider for the South Central region.

Black Lace Elderberry

By Susan Albert

Trees and shrubs form the backbone of any landscape design and fulfill many uses. Trees can shade the house in summer, lowering cooling bills. Shrubs can provide privacy screens or serve as foundation plantings.

In addition you can feature trees and shrubs as “specimens,” showing off a favorable attribute such as color, form, or flowers. And evergreen trees and berry-producing shrubs are a wonderful way to provide food and cover for wildlife.

When buying trees and shrubs, be sure to consider the plant’s cultural needs such as soil and light preference, average size, and cold-hardiness. If electrical lines are an issue, it’s important to determine height restrictions for trees. And before planting, have all the utility lines marked in your yard.

Lowe’s has a wide variety of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs. Shrub selection varies by store but may include abelia, boxwood, barberry, euonymus, weigela, yew, nandina, hardy hibiscus, rose of Sharon, hydrangea, spruce, false cypress, butterfly bush, lilac, crape myrtle (including ‘Black Diamond’), elderberry and ninebark. Lowe’s carries fruiting trees, shade trees, and flowering trees; and specimens such as smoke trees and Japanese maples.

Vines, such as honeysuckle and clematis, also are considered part of the structure of a landscape. They provide height without taking up much garden space.

Here are some notable “woody” plants available at Lowe’s:

Hydrangea
  • Endless Summer Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) is one of the gorgeous mopheads, characterized by giant, round clusters of blooms. If your soil is acidic, the flowers are blue; if the soil is alkaline, the flowers are pink. Hydrangea grows best in moist soil in partial shade and is winter hardy to minus-30 degrees F.
Ninebark
  • Center Glow ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Center Glow’) is a lovely shrub in muted shades of green, gold, and burgundy. Plant in full sun to part shade (morning sun only in extreme heat areas). ‘Center Glow’ can reach 6–8 feet tall and wide. It is hardy in Zones 3–7 and tolerates poor soils if they are well drained.
False cypress
  • Lemon Thread Sawara false cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Lemon Thread’) is a needled evergreen that prefers full sun and semi-moist soil. It grows broadly conical, from 3–5 feet tall to 2–4 feet wide. It is hardy to Zone 4. Not as tall as the Gold Thread false cypress, Lemon Thread Sawara’s floppy golden foliage makes a nice contrast to dark-green or purple-leaf plants.
Pieris
  • Mountain Fire Pieris (Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’) is a broadleaf evergreen that needs morning sunlight only. New growth is fiery red, and white flower panicles, which formed the previous summer, bloom in spring. Pieris is a slow grower that prefers  semimoist, acidic soil. Growing to 4–5 feet tall, it requires little pruning and is hardy in our region.
Boxwood
  • Green Mountain boxwood (Buxus ‘Green Mountain’) is a hardy evergreen shrub good for foundation or formal plantings and containers. It grows 4–5 feet tall and 2–3 feet wide. I often see Green Mountain shaped as round balls in area gardens. It can tolerate shade but prefers full to part sun.
  • Crimson pygmy barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea nana’) is a mounding deciduous shrub that stays a tidy 2–3 feet tall and wide. Hardy to Zone 4, it needs little pruning. Give it full sun to show off its purple, red, and green foliage.
  • Black lace elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’) is a striking, very-dark-foliage shrub reminiscent of a Japanese maple because of its deeply divided foliage. New light-green growth contrasts nicely against the purple-black foliage. Growing about 6–8 feet tall and wide, elderberry prefers full sun. A specimen is shown at the top of this article, pictured at the Oklahoma State University Extension Center in Tulsa.
  • Smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria) is a small specimen tree that reaches about 15 feet tall. Its main attraction is billowy bloom clusters in summer that resemble buff-colored smoke arising from the leaves. Hardy in our region, it also boasts colorful fall foliage.

There is a great selection of shrubs and trees right now at Lowe’s. It’s best to buy and plant before the temperature gets into the 90s and 100s. If you do plant during the dog days of summer, make certain to keep the plants well watered until they become established.