Monday, April 20, 2009

Old Hat or All That?

On this plant list in particular and also throughout the semester there have been a few plants labeled something like, "Plants You May Find In Your Grandma's Yard" or as Michael Dirr may say "The Over The Hill Gang". These are the plants that used to be really popular but were eventually replaced with newer, more trendy plants. As a landscape designer, horticulturalist, or someone in production, hearing this information in class may have deterred you from ever using these "stale" old plants in any area. After all, this seems to be a strategy many professionals seem to be taking since really, these plants don't appear in modern landscapes hardly at all.

As someone kind of partial to these old favorites, here's a few exciting varieties worth taking a second look at:

Syringa vulgaris or Common Lilac: The straight species of this in renouned for its intensely fragrant flowers, and great lilac spring color. But, it is also scraggly, prone to mildews and diseases, and confusing when it comes to pruning. Cultivars such as 'Little Boy Blue' (blue) and 'Prarie Petite' (pink) have a more compact habit which makes it more versatile in the landscape. 'Prince Wokonsky' has double flowers, and 'Elsa Maasik' (deep purple) is more disease resistant than the straight species. 'Albert F. Holden' is bicolor.

Chaenomeles speciosa or Common Floweringquince: This may be dismissed as too scraggly or wild, but the flower show is what really makes planting a Floweringquince worth it. Going from there, lots of different flowering varieties have been released covering the gamete between white and dark red. 'Jet Trail' (white), 'Minerva' (red), and 'Texas Scarlet' (red) are a few of the more compact varieties if the Floweringquince's legginess is too much for you. 'Scarff's Red' is a thornless variety available, although the thorns may come in handy for a barrier or hedge.

Spirea prunifolia or Bridalwreath Spirea: ... Ok that one may not have any hot new varities, but take a look at it at this time of year. Its one of the greatest for full white spring flowering, and attracts tons of wildlife including honeybees and ladybugs (both of which are necessities for any healthy garden). And the rest of the year, it makes a nice green mounded background for your summer and fall flowering colors.


Dirr, Michael A. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. 215-216, 962-963, 986-991
Common Lilac picture 'Albert F. Holden' from
Floweringquince picture 'Texas Scarlet' from
Bridalwreath Spirea picture from

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