Five Easy Pieces

New variety of plants can offer brighter colors, bigger flowers, extended flowering time, more reliable bloom — and less maintenance

By Jim Sollecito

SolecitoHoly ravioli, it’s time for landscape planting again. Homeowners often resort to familiar varieties. This may be fine but it might exclude decades of progress. Years of research and development have produced an uncountable number of improved varieties with fantastic new features.

Improvements include brighter colors, bigger flowers, extended flowering time, more reliable bloom, cold hardiness, fewer thorns, compact forms and resistance to disease and insects.

This all adds up to a more beautiful result requiring less maintenance. It’s not just about trends and styles. It’s science!

You could stick with the boring familiar plants. After all, you know which sprays they require and you’ve grown used to a pruning routine. But really….why?

How about less work with more pop? Yes, eye-popping color.

In no particular order, I’ve listed five plant varieties that I include in my landscape designs as frequently as possible.

Sonic Bloom Weigela. Enjoy spring, summer and fall flowers on these medium-sized flowering shrubs. Strong rebloomers, this series of low-maintenance plants provide months of butterfly attraction in clear and saturated colors. Sure to make you smile every time you look at them.

Double Play and Magic Carpet Dwarf Spirea. Spireas are notoriously tough: unfazed by deer, shade, cold, heat or dry conditions. The dwarf selections mind their manners in terms of size and provide loads of berry-colored spring and summer flowers. Then come the spectacular hot fall tones as well. Need I say more?

Compact Panicle Hydrangeas. These beauties are low-maintenance, long blooming, and absolutely beautiful. Everyone needs a panicle hydrangea because no other flowering shrub gives so much to the landscape while requiring so little. My personal favorites are Little Quick Fire, Bobo and Little Lime. In fact, I have all three in my own home landscape.

Purple Pillar Rose of Sharon. Talk about the perfect plant for a tight squeeze, these space-saving gems are never going to grow wider than 2-3’ and they easily top out at 6-7’. Wow, how many times (always) have I come across that situation in a landscape renovation? Double purple flowers don’t produce seeds, so it stays neat and tidy. Here’s something more interesting in late summer than the 25 -cent state fair milk.

Double Take Orange Storm Quince. This is the flowering shrub for every SU fan. Over a month of sterile blooms on a compact plant that is certain to jolt you from the winter doldrums. They are thornless, easy to maintain, and just plain fun.

I hope these five easy pieces inspire you to make your corner of the world a little brighter. If you aren’t looking with pleasure at your home plantings, don’t just sit there. Plant something!

Jim Sollecito is the first lifetime senior certified landscape professional in NYS. He operates Sollecito Landscaping Nursery in Syracuse. Contact him at 468-1142 or