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For the Woods' Edge (part 2)

Looking for shrubs or small trees for the front of my woods, I search the database where I note interesting plants, and my reference books, and the Web....

Oak-leaf hydrangea grows four to six feet tall and spreads into an eight-foot mound, with ten-inch-tall conical clusters of flowers that start out white in August, then darken to a deep rose; big, dark green leaves that turn burgundy in fall; and cinnamon-colored bark that peels attractively. It does fine in sun or shade (although more sun produces more flowers and better fall color.) Oh-oh, deer like it.

Hills-of-snow hydrangea (H. arborescens), somewhat less deer-popular, grows three to five feet tall and wide. It bears leaves that are dark green on the top and pale green underneath; and in June, large masses of dome-shaped flowers --greenish-cream or white — that attract butterflies. It prefers dappled shade, or morning sun only — but tolerates deep shade. Native to the southeastern US, both these hydrangeas are hardy here, too. They prefer moist, well-drained soil, but adapt to dry conditions.

Kerria Japonica sounds well-suited to the site: it prefers partial or full shade (in full sun the plant grows well, but flowers lose color). Deer resistant, this spring-bloomer requires well-drained soil, and prefers it moist — but tolerates it dry. Various cultivars are single- or double-flowered, pale or golden yellow; 'Picta' has narrow cream margins on its gray-green leaves.

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) has little clusters of yellow flowers on the branches before the leaves emerge in spring. They're not very showy, though; red berries on female plants are brighter, and the most color comes in fall: the leaves turn brilliant lemon-yellow. But what draws me most to this plant is descriptions of the aromatic, spicy, fruity scent of all its parts. Where can I find some to smell?

Native to much of the eastern US and southern Canada, spicebush spreads slowly by suckers, becoming six to twelve feet tall and wide. It prefers moist soil but is drought resistant; will grow in deep shade but gives best flowering and fall color in some sun. Both sexes need to be planted together to produce fruit. Birds and raccoons eat the fruit, deer sometimes eat leaves and twigs; the larvae of swallowtail butterflies need to eat the leaves.

I lose myself for hours in research, finding more and more possibilities ... but enough for today!

© Copyright 2003 Catherine Holmes Clark


Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 17 October 2003

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