This is a relatively small understory tree of our northern forests with fairly large leaves that give good fall color. However, its main attribute is its bark. On young wood, the bark is bright green with vertical white stripes which are very striking. Generally 10 to 15 feet in height but not that wide, Striped Maple has yellow to yellow-green flowers in the spring that can be quite noticeable. It should have some shade, especially in warmer climates. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 7. Source: Northern Maine.
This is another understory tree that does not get too large. It has yellowish green leaves in the summer that give good fall color. Its main attribute, for me, is the fruit, which is a very noticeable samara hanging from the branch tips during the month of August. If the tree is in a relatively sunny spot, these can be quite striking. The height is approximately 10 to 20 feet – prefers some shade but will adapt to a fair amount of sunshine. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 6. Source: Northern Maine.
This tree is adaptable to a wide range of habitats from wet swampy areas to dry uplands and is very evident in seashore locations, especially in Rhode Island where large colonies exist. It is identifiable from other Amelanchier species for it suckers quite freely. The white flowers in the spring are followed by red berries in June. Its good fall color and extremely desirable smooth gray bark make this a ‘must plant” in native plant gardens. Its height will be 10 to 20 feet depending on the location. It will survive shady areas but will flower best in full sun. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 7. Source: Purchased seed and plants.
The description of A. laevis is very similar to that of Amelanchier canadensis except it grows more as a tree without suckering and will probably grow 5 to 10 feet taller, especially in wooded areas. Amelanchier arborea, laevis, canadensis are all native to our area, and it is my feeling that they probably have hybridized to some extent and are very hard to tell apart. They are all good plants for a native plant garden. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 7. Source: Purchased seed and plants.
Amelanchier stolonifera stays quite low, in the 4 foot range, and can spread wider than high. Its flowers, foliage and fruit are typical of Amelanchier. This is a fascinating small shrub that is a beauty when in bloom, and it does very well in full sun. Hardiness: Zone 4. Source: Not sure – possibly from Tom Dilatush.
New England and Canada. Its height will be perhaps 6 to 8 inches and its width is extended as it spreads through underground root stock. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 6. Source: Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
This is a very low growing, prostrate shrub that will spread primarily downhill and root down as it goes. The evergreen leaves are a very dark lustrous green tinged with burgundy red, especially in the fall. The tiny white bell-shaped flowers in the spring are followed by red berries. It likes dry, sandy soil and can thrive quite well in hostile environments as long as its roots remain quite dry. Although this plant is very common in seashore communities, especially on Cape Cod, it can also be found at high elevations in mountains out West. It needs to be planted in full sun to be at its very best. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 6. Source: Purchased from Cape Cod.
This is a good size hardy shrub with umbel white flowers that produce bright red berries later in the summer. It has very good leaf color in the fall. It will grow approximately 8 feet in height and perhaps half that in width. It can tolerate both wet or dry soils. Full sun exposure will give the best berry set. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 9. Source: Tom Dilatush.
Aronia x prunifolia
This is almost identical to Aronia arbutifolia – probably a hybrid of A. arbutifolia and A. melanocarpa (Black Chokeberry). Aronia prunifolia has purple rather than red fruit. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 9. Source: Tom Dilatush.
Canada Wild Ginger
This plant is an herbaceous perennial with dark green, but not shiny, leaves that stand 4 to 6 inches above the soil. It has typical ginger flowers which are very hard to see below the leaf canopy. Although the literature says it prefers shade, we have some growing in full sun, which do as well as the plants in the shade and perhaps even better. A carpet of Asarum around boulders can be a striking sight in the native plant garden. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 7. Source: Not sure.
Mottled Wild Ginger
This is a very low growing, small leaf groundcover plant. It is different from European Ginger in that the leaves have ‘veins” throughout them giving a mottled effect. It does not cover an area as rapidly as Asarum canadense and could be used in areas where a single, very low growing plant is desirable. It prefers shade but can tolerate some full sun.
Hardiness: Zone 5. Source: Purchased.
Although an understory tree that can grow between 15 to 20 feet tall, this tree actually does very well in full sun. Small purple flowers are evident in early spring and fairly large, 4 to 5 inches long, fruit are borne in the fall. This fruit is edible and is indeed quite tasty. The leaves are fairly large and turn a pleasant yellow in the fall. This tree gives a different (almost tropical) appearance than most others and contrasts with other trees in a native plant situation. Hardiness: Zone 5 to 8. Source: Purchased seed and plants.
This and the following deciduous azaleas should probably be listed as rhododendrons since azaleas are truly rhododendrons. However, we have always listed them ‘azaleas” and will continue to do so. Azalea atlanticum gives a bluish-green effect when in leaf and grows to 6 feet high with a rather erect habit. It does sucker and will spread by that manner. The flowers are predominately white, fading to pink. It is an understory plant that likes well drained soil. It should be noted that the flowers are extremely fragrant. Hardiness: Zone 5 to 8. Source: Purchased seed
This is another upright growing deciduous azalea, growing perhaps as wide as high and reaching a height of 8 feet. The flowers are quite spectacular ranging from a yellow to orange and red. It is quite spectacular when in bloom and brings a good bit of color to the native garden. It likes good drainage and rich peaty soil. Hardiness: Zone 5 to 8. Source: Purchased seed.
This is another upright shrub-type azalea, an understory plant that tends to get fairly open with a dainty habit of growth. The clear pink flowers with red stamens are very attractive in a subdued, not gaudy, manner. The mature plants will probably grow 6 to 8 feet in height and about that wide in good locations. We discovered a plant locally with a darker pink flower that is very attractive, and we are listing it as Azalea nudiflorum ‘Deep Pink’. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 8. Source: Ivoryton and Madison, Connecticut
Azalea roseum (prinophyllum)
This is very similar to A. nudiflorum, becoming a slightly larger plant with somewhat more substantial appearing flowers. The variety ‘Marie Hoffman’, no doubt a triploid, has very large pink flowers and is extremely fragrant, even more so than the type plant. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 8. Source: Purchased seed, ‘Marie Hoffman’ from Ludwig Hoffman Nursery – originally a ‘collected” plant from North Carolina.
An upright growing azalea, this differs from the others since it prefers damp, boggy areas and is usually found on the edge of sphagnum swamps and perhaps growing on hummocks within the swamp. It will survive growing in drier areas, but does not thrive there as well as in areas that are extremely wet. Fragrant white flowers are found in late June to early July and can be quite striking. We discovered a plant in a location next to our nursery that has light pink flowers, and we’ve named this one ‘Pink Mist’. It should be noted that Azalea viscosum is quite salt tolerant. The plants growing near salt water tend to have bright shiny green leaves whereas plants growing more inland have glaucous leaves and produce a heavier, stronger plant. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 8. Source: Madison, Connecticut and Rhode Island (near a salt pond).
This is a rounded, upright shrub generally growing to 4 to 6 feet with round white flowers that are about the size of a marble. Buttonbush likes wet areas and can even be found in standing water. Hardiness: Zone 5 to 10. Source: Madison, Connecticut.
A small to medium size tree, Redbud tends to branch close to the ground making a rounded globe appearance. It has a good looking leaf and a fairly good fall color, but its main attribute is the rosy pink flowers growing up and down the branches, even coming from the trunk of the tree, that appear in early spring. When in bloom, Cercis canadensis is one of the most beautiful trees in our native landscape; however, it should be used judiciously in New England. Although it is listed as hardy to Zone 4, I have lost one tree and had extensive damage to another from minus 7° temperatures. Seed source is very important – only plants grown from northern seed sources should be attempted in New England. It is worth the effort, however, as this tree is spectacular when doing well. Hardiness: Zone 5 (?) to 9. Source: Purchased seeds.
This wonderful evergreen tree with fairly thin wispy foliage is at its best when grown in standing water or on the very edge of swampy areas. It can grow 40 to 50 feet high and has indeed been used as a timber tree in the past. White Cedar swamps of any size have an aura all their own and can be quite majestic. One of the best is at Marconi Station at the National Seashore on Cape Cod. It is well worth the hike to it. We grow several varieties of C. thyoides, including dwarf forms, but the ones for naturalistic plantings would be either the green foliage type or the glaucous type, both of which occur in native stands. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 8. Source: Madison, Connecticut.
In general, this is a rather open, ugly little evergreen shrub that has green leaves in the summer but turn brown in the winter. It does have interesting small urn-shaped flowers typical of ericaceous plants and can be found growing in and around standing water. We grow two named varieties here that are different since they are compact plants with lots of flowers that give an extremely nice appearance when in bloom in the spring . One is called ‘Tiny Tom’ and the other is ‘Dew Drop’. These will have landscape value for damp areas as well as the possibility of using them in naturalistic settings. We are also starting to grow a clone that stays green all winter but with the open rangy effect of the native plant. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 5. Source: Northern Maine and Tom Dilatush for compact varieties.
This can become quite a large spreading tree reaching 15 to 20 feet in height and the same in width. With a good size green leaf, some specimens have excellent yellow fall coloring. The flowers are white, soft textured panicles that are spectacularly beautiful. The flowers on the male plants tend to be larger and more striking than on the female plants. The fruit is a dark blue drupe that reminds me very much of a small ripe olive. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 8. Source: Purchased plants and collected seed from same.
This is a small tree that can reach a height of 15 to 20 feet. The flower is typical of Clethra: that is a white terminal raceme. The leaves take on a yellow color in the fall that is quite pleasing. However, it is the bark of this tree, which looks like a cinnamon stick, that sets it apart and makes it a valuable addition to the native plant garden. Unlike Clethra alnifolia, it prefers dry, sandy locations rather than damp soil. Hardiness: Zone 5 to 7. Source: Purchased plants.
Clethra alnifolia – Varieties
Clethra alnifolia is one of the first native plant species we grew. We now grow ten named varieties, differing in growth habit and flower color. The flower of the type plant is a white, fragrant, upright terminal raceme – it blooms in mid-summer. Clethra alnifolia likes damp areas on the edge of swamps and streams. It is an excellent plant for naturalizing these areas and is quite attractive to bees and butterflies – Clethra honey is reputed to be one of the best honeys there is. We can now provide plants that will stay within 3 to 4 feet in height (‘Compacta’), as well as the type plant that can grow 6 to 8 feet tall. Flower colors range from a good deep pink on ‘Ruby Spice’ to pure white on the type plant and ‘Ann’s Bouquet’, Hummingbird’, etc. Clethra alnifolia will spread from suckers and can cover quite an area. Some varieties tend to sucker more than others. This is also a salt tolerant plant. The variety ‘Ann’s Bouquet’ was found within 50 feet of a salt pond and is one of the nicest growing clones we have. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 9 although ‘Hummingbird’ and ‘Sixteen Candles’, coming from Georgia, may be a bit more tender. Source: Madison, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and purchased plants for some varieties.
As evidenced by its common name, Comptonia has fernlike leaves and looks like a type of fern, but it is indeed a shrub. It usually grows 2 to 4 feet high and can spread indefinitely as it suckers profusely. The leaves are a good dark green turning brown in the fall without much fall color. Sweetfern can grow in extremely dry conditions but can be found in damp areas as well – it is quite adaptable. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 7. Source: Madison and Deep River, Connecticut.
A very small, approximately 1 foot tall, evergreen shrub with tiny leaves only about 1/4 inch long. Corema produces a very interesting groundcover-type plant for acid soils in and around rocky areas. Hardiness: at least as far North as Zone 3. Source: Tom Dilatush – New Jersey.
This is a nice horizontally branching tree that doesn’t get too large, perhaps 15 to 20 feet.
The relatively small flowers are inconspicuous, and the dark purple to black fruit does not make much of a show either. But it is its horizontal habit and clean foliage that make it an interesting tree to blend in with more vertical types. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 7. Source: Purchased liners.
Cornus amomum is somewhat similar to Cornus alternifolia with a slightly more rounded form. Once again, the flowers and fruit are not spectacular, but it can be useful in damp areas where an understory tree of its nature is needed. Remember, it does like more water than most of the other dogwoods. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 8. Source: Purchased liners.
A description of Cornus florida should not be necessary, but a few notes follow. Cornus florida does have its problems – older plants can be attacked by anthracnose, the disease Discula destructiva, and both old and young plants are susceptible to powdery mildew. Over the years though, I have noticed quite a difference in the susceptibility to mildew on seedings in our area, and in the future I hope to do some work trying to raise clones that will resist mildew more than others. Although Cornus florida is rated as a Zone 5 plant for hardiness, you should check the original source of plants you buy. Trees from southern sources may survive in New England, but the flower buds are invariably blasted by our winters. The Cornus florida we grow here are from seeds collected locally. Source: Madison, Connecticut.
This is a shrub dogwood with a multi-stem habit growing up to perhaps 10 feet and maybe even taller. The flowers are not terribly noticeable; but the fruit, later in the summer, are white round drupes that can be quite spectacular, especially when they are borne in profusion in certain years The stems on Cornus sericea are one of its important attributes as they turn a brilliant scarlet red in the winter, standing out against any snow cover in a very dramatic way. The stems and new wood are basically green in the summer, turning red in the fall. I believe I’ve found one that stays red all summer, but it needs to be trialed a few more years. Cornus sericea likes a good bit of moisture and can be found on stream banks and bogs. It is an excellent plant to use for stream bank stabilization. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 6. Source: Northern Maine.
Wood Vamp, or Wild Hydrangea Vine, another of its common names, is a vine that has dark green, very lustrous leaves and white flowers in early summer. It is usually found in shady spots and in moist areas – moisture is indeed necessary for this plant to do well. Acid soil with high organic matter is also desirable. It can grow up to 20 feet into trees and has aerial root-like tendrils – a very beautiful but not too rampant vine. Hardiness: Zone 5 to 9. Source: Purchased plants.
All the Diervillas are fairly low growing shrubs, usually 3 feet or less, with yellow flowers in mid summer. Diervilla lonicera, a northern native, tends to sucker quite profusely and will cover a fairly large area in a short amount of time. Diervilla rivularis and Diervilla sessilifolia, both coming from the Southeast, have larger yellow flowers than D. lonicera and tend to grow a bit taller and do not sucker quite as much. They seem to grow equally well in sun or shade and all make excellent understory shrubs. Hardiness: Diervilla lonicera Zone 3 to 7. Diervilla rivularis and sessilifolia Zone 4 to 7. Source: Diervilla Lonicera – Wilbraham, Massachusetts. Diervilla rivularis and sessilifolia – Purchased plants.
A heavily branched, dense rounded shrub with pale yellow flowers blooming in early spring, this is basically an understory plant that grows to between 2 and 6 feet tall. It has very interesting branches and bark – the branches are quite flexible and the bark definitely has a leathery feel to it. It needs plenty of moisture and will be happy on stream banks and water courses in wooded areas. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 9. Source: Purchased plants.
This is a small tree that can grow to approximately 20 feet in height. The bark and leaves are similar to Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’ although the fall color is not as striking. While the flower is fairly inconspicuous, the seed capsule in the fall is very interesting and attractive. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 9. Source: Purchased plants.
This is a deciduous shrub that, as the common name implies, runs along the ground and rarely gets more than 12 inches high. It has green leaves and small, but interesting, light green flowers. Seed capsules that open to expose red seeds in the fall are also quite interesting. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 7. Source: Purchased plants.
Common Maidenhair Fern
This is a native of eastern North America and must be grown in moist, loose soil and should have a good bit of shade. It can become 12 to 24 inches tall.
This is a native of central and northeastern North America. It can produce fronds of 15 inches in width and 18 to 36 inches in height. A relatively easy one to grow, it still requires a good deal of moisture and would like some shade.
This is one of the most successful ferns to use in the home landscape. It spreads quite readily with underground runners and can form quite a ground cover if the area remains moist enough. It can take full sun and will make quite a show with its light, feathery type foliage which grows 18 to 24 inches tall. Because of its stoloniferous habit, it can become a weed and get into areas not wanted, but where a fern ground cover would be desirable, it is an excellent plant. The pleasant fragrance that gives it its name can be very noticeable on hot summer days. It can take considerably dryer conditions than most of the other ferns we grow.
Toothed Wood Fern
This native of eastern and central North America is also called Crested Wood Fern, as well as Crested Shield Fern. It has narrow feathery fronds that grow about 30 inches tall. These can possibly be evergreen in the southern part of its range, including protected spots in southern New England. It requires a moist location and can take sun as well as part shade.
Sensitive Fern is a nice little fern that we have recently added to our fern collection. It grows in wet areas, will take full sun and grows between 12 and 30 inches tall. Sensitive Fern has spore cases on stems that turn a dark purplish-brown and when dry can be used in dried flower arrangements. It is a neat, little, moisture loving fern that can grow in full sun – the fronds being its main attraction.
This native of North America can do well in several types of soil; however, it does require a good bit of moisture and some shade. In the right conditions it can become 5 feet tall, although 2 to 3 feet is more normal. Its sporing body, cinnamon color, standing sometimes over a foot tall like a huge cinnamon stick from the center of the plant, makes this an extremely interesting fern.
Royal Fern is a bit different than most other ferns in that its leaflets are oblong instead of pointed. They actually look more like those of a locust tree rather than a fern. However, the overall shape of the plant is fernlike. It prefers areas that are damp to wet. Although I’ve read that Royal Fern can grow to 6 feet, it is usually found in the 3 to 4 foot range.
The fronds of this one are evergreen and can be about 10 inches wide and up to 3 feet in length although usually much smaller. It likes quite a bit of shade, otherwise its leaves will tend to be very pale instead of deep green. Christmas Fern can take upland conditions as long as the ground remains moist. A friable, peaty, woodsy-type soil is what it requires. It is very valuable for landscape use.
This plant has two botanical names – the other one sometimes used is Matteuccia pensylvanica. This is another very tall fern. If entirely happy in the wild, it can grow as high as 10 feet – you can really get lost in a mass of them. However, in cultivation, 4 to 6 feet would probably be maximum and then only if planted in fairly ideal conditions – quite wet with good peaty soil. It spreads by runners; therefore, it can cover an area within a short period of time. Hardiness: All ferns are hardy in New England. Source: Purchased plants – mostly New Hampshire.
This plant has become so popular as a landscape plant that we tend to forget it is native to eastern United States. It is a rounded shrub that can grow to 6 to 8 feet in height with equal width. Small witchhazel-type leaves are a good dark green in the summer but are fantastically multi-colored in the fall, running from light yellow to orange-red to purple. The flowers are a white bottlebrush-type in mid spring. Although it prefers acid soil, it will accept a wide range of soil types and conditions. It is an excellent plant for any native plant garden. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 8. Source: Purchased plants.
This is very similar to Fothergilla gardenii except it is a larger plant, growing to possibly 10 feet in height with not quite that much spread. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 8. Source: Purchased plants.
This is a wonderful little evergreen shrub growing only 6 to 18 inches high. It will spread indefinitely through underground root stock and produce a solid mat in an area where it is happy. This plant has typical urn-shaped ericaceous-type flowers in the spring and has bluish fruit later in the summer. To be happy it should be in acid soil that is very loose and well drained – good drainage is very important. While the leaves are a good dark shiny green throughout the summer, some with a reddish cast, it is in the fall when this plant is at its best as its leaves turn bright scarlet and purple. This is especially true when the plants are in full sun Some clones have better color than others, and the clone we are growing at present is truly spectacular. Hardiness: Zone 5 to 7. Source: Tom Dilatush – West Virginia
Halesia tetraptera (Carolina)
This can become a large tree, 30 to 40 feet in height, and perhaps 20 feet in width. Dark green leaves have some fall color but are not too spectacular. Its bell shaped white flowers in the spring make this a very interesting, desirable tree both in native plantings and for landscape use. It prefers well drained acid soil and will do best in full sun. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 8. Source: Purchased plants. Note: Both H. carolina and H. monticola are considered to be the same species and are grouped as Halesia tetraptera. We also grow a pink flowering form named ‘Arnold Pink’.
This is a many stemmed sub-shrub that can get quite large – 15 to 20 feet in height and diameter is not at all uncommon. It is very soil tolerant and can do reasonably well in shady areas although the better plants will be produced in full sun. In late fall, the threadlike yellow flowers are not terribly noticeable except on a few clones that drop their leaves before the flowers open. It is an excellent large filler shrub for native plantings. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 8. Source: Purchased plants.
A many stemmed shrub growing approximately 4 feet in height and perhaps a bit wider, it suckers very freely from its roots and can cover quite a large area. This plant is known in the nursery trade primarily from its cultivar ‘Annabelle’ which has large, infertile petaled flowers. However, the flowers of the type plant are light green to white and being fertile do not have the petals that ‘Annabelle’ has. It likes well drained, but moist, soil and will respond well to a sunny location although it can also thrive in the shade. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 9. Source: Arnold Arboretum.
Hypericum kalmianum & Species
This is a relatively small shrub with bluish-green foliage growing to perhaps 3 feet high and 3 feet wide. Yellow flowers borne in profusion in mid-summer make this a very desirable plant. It prefers dry, well drained soil; however, it will tolerate most soil conditions. Hardiness: Zone: 4 to 7. Source: Purchased plants.
A rounded shrub with glossy evergreen foliage, this is a many stemmed plant with a mounded character growing perhaps to 8 feet in height and width. Like other hollies, it is dioecious – the female plants produce black berries in profusion in the fall. This has become a very popular landscape plant with many new varieties entering the market – ‘Compacta’ being one of the best known, growing only perhaps to 6 feet in height and width. Varieties such as ‘Nigra’ and ‘Shamrock’ have darker green foliage than the type. It prefers full sun – growing rather thin and scraggly in shaded areas. It also likes damp soil and at times can be found on the edge of bogs – acid soil is preferable. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 9. Source: Tom Dilatush, type plant. Purchased plants for other varieties.
Almost everyone knows of American Holly with its large spiny, sometimes lustrous, leaves and red berries on female plants in the fall. American Holly, when not trimmed to a pyramid as is generally done in the landscape, can grow to a tree of 40 to 50 feet in height and with a width of perhaps 20 to 30 feet. It does well under normal soil conditions – moist, acid soil is preferable as is a sunny location. Although plants will survive in the shade, this makes a thinner, more open plant. In most areas, deer will leave American Holly alone, therefore, making it a valuable evergreen for native plantings in deer infested areas. There are many named varieties on the market, some are hardier than others, and care should be taken to avoid plants grown in southern climates. The female clone we are growing at the present time was given to us by Tim Gastler of Durham, Connecticut. Where the original source of that plant is, I am not sure. The male we are growing is from a chance seedling here at the nursery and seems extremely hardy. Hardiness: Zone 5 to 9. Source: See above.
Ilex verticillata – varieties.
Along with Clethra, Ilex verticillata was one of the first native plants we grew in any type of quantity. It’s now well known in the nursery trade with many named varieties available. It’s a shrub that can grow to perhaps 10 to 15 feet in height. Dark green deciduous leaves are followed, on the female plant, with many, many red berries up and down the stems making a spectacular show in autumn and well into winter. Winterberry is a plant of wet, swampy areas but will do reasonably well under dry conditions. Acid soil is definitely preferable. Full sun will give a much heavier berry set than a shady area, but the plant will thrive quite well in the shade. Many varieties are in the trade now, most differentiated by blooming time, berry size, and quantities of berries. We have introduced one named ‘Kennebago’ which grows much, much slower than the usual plant, taking many years to reach a height of 3 to 4 feet. Ilex verticillata ‘Compacta’, which is now called ‘Red Sprite’, will usually top out at approximately 8 feet. This is a must for naturalistic plantings of any size in the Northeast. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 9. Source: ‘Kennebago’ – northern Maine. ‘Red Sprite’ – Ludwig Hoffman, origin southern Massachusetts. ‘Jolly Red’ – Ludwig Hoffman, Bloomfield, Connecticut. Others, Purchased plants.
This is a nice medium size, many stemmed shrub growing approximately 4 feet tall that can spread, forming relatively large colonies. It has clean, nice green leaves, and the flowers, blooming in early summer, are white upright racemes – they are fragrant and make quite a show. This plant is thought of more as a landscape plant rather than for use in native plantings, but it would be a fine addition to native plantings especially in moist and even wet areas, although it will also do quite well in dry spots. We grow two named varieties here: ‘Henry’s Garnet’ which is similar to the type plant and ‘Merlot’, which is more compact – maturing at probably not much over 3 feet. There are many other varieties on the market today; however, we found that some are quite tender and care should be taken if planted in New England. Hardiness: Zone 5 to 9. Source: Purchased plants.
This is a very hardy, low growing evergreen shrub with feathery foliage. Along with Juniperus virginiana, it is one of the first plants to come into an abandoned field producing plants between approximately 6 feet in diameter and only about 3 feet in height. There is tremendous variation in the color and plant habit. This plant can also be found in high, dry rocky areas and at other times right down next to the salt water near the sea. It is a very hardy and adaptable plant. We are offering two clones at the moment from a group of plants from Nova Scotia selected by Tom Dilatush. One we have named ‘Nova Scotia’ that grows quite rapidly, very dense, and stays close to the ground but will send branches up approximately 12 to 15 inches. The second one named ‘LaHave’ grows much slower than ‘Nova Scotia’ and is more compact. Both are good plants for either the native plant garden or for landscape use. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 6. Source: Tom Dilatush – LaHave Island, Nova Scotia.
Anyone reading this should know Juniperus horizontalis from its many, many clones offered in the trade. It is native in North America from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, a creeping glaucous plant that is happy in many locations, growing between rocks in gravelly soil and in some cases very close to salt water. Indeed, one of the clones we grow, ‘Bar Harbor’, comes from Mt. Desert Island in Maine. The other, ‘Blue Rug’ (Wiltoni), was discovered by J. C. van Heiningen of Wilton Nursery, Connecticut. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 9. Source: See above.
This is a nice, low growing (1 to 3 feet) semi-evergreen shrub. It is at its best in early summer when its stems are covered with pink flowers, making quite a show on a fairly good size plant. It is very tolerant of many different types of soil conditions. I’ve found it growing out of moss in very wet areas, but also it can be found in dry, well drained sandy slopes. We grow plants from three clones here: one named ‘Hammonasset’ was found near the Hammonasset River here in Madison, Connecticut by Dick Jaynes over forty years ago. It is a low growing form with quite glaucous leaves, quite compact, with darker than usual pink flowers. Two other clones come from plants I collected in northern Maine: one I named ‘Kennebago’ which has the same dark pink flower as ‘Hammonasset’ but on a much more vigorous and upright growing plant. Another named ‘Poke Logan’ has a bit larger leaf and is a faster growing form with light pink flowers. All three will do well in a native plant garden and will add a good bit of color to the garden when in flower in early June. Hardiness: Zone 1 to 6. Source: See above.
Not much needs to be said about this plant for it is very well known as it is Connecticut’s state flower. It has dark green lustrous leaves with large pink to white flowers in June making this a spectacular plant either in a native plant garden or for landscape use. It is somewhat adaptable to soil types as long as there is good drainage. I’ve found this plant growing in road cuts with purely mineral soil and also in rich humus in forest areas. Although it will grow quite well, making fairly large plants in shaded understory situations, plants in full sun will produce more flowers. Heavy flowering is usually in alternate years unless the plants are deadheaded, which is unlikely in a naturalistic setting. We grow many of the new named varieties of Kalmia latifolia, but for naturalistic settings, we usually recommend either ‘Hoffman’s Pink’ or ‘Hoffman’s K’ which are very close to plants usually found in the wild. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 9. Source: Ludwig Hoffman – Bloomfield, Connecticut and purchased plants for other varieties.
This is a small shrub, staying perhaps 1 1/2 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide, with very small, shiny dark evergreen leaves that become bronze in the winter. The flowers that arrive in June are white with a tinge of pink. It likes peaty but not overly wet soil – a nice, low growing little shrub. Hardiness: Zone 5 to 7. Source: Pine Barrens, New Jersey.
Leucothoe catesbaei (fontanesiana)
This plant and its named varieties are used so extensively in landscape plantings that sometimes we forget it is native to the southeastern United States. Lustrous, evergreen leaves with varying amounts of purple make this a beautiful evergreen shrub. The arching branches have white, urn-shaped flowers hanging from them in mid-spring. The type plant can grow to approximately 6 feet high and at least that in width. However, the form we grow, ‘Compacta’, will not grow nearly that large, staying in the 3 foot by 4 foot range, and has superior mahogany-red color in the winter. Leucothoe axillaris is a similar plant with slightly smaller leaves and a lighter red color in the fall. It is not quite as hardy as Leucothoe catesbaei. Both of these plants want the same conditions as rhododendrons – good peaty soil that is moist but not overly wet. The leaves are somewhat susceptible to wind damage in exposed locations in the winter. Hardiness: Leucothoe catesbaei Zone 5 to 8; Leucothoe axillaris Zone 6 to 8. Source: Purchased plants.
This is a fairly large, open shrub growing in very moist conditions, including swampy areas. It is tolerant of shade and makes a good understory plant for wet areas. Lindera benzoin is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring with small, greenish-yellow flowers – always a welcome sight after a tough winter. Plants in shady areas rarely set much fruit, but those that get quite a bit of sun will produce red berries later in the summer – well berried plants are quite attractive. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 9. Source: Madison, Connecticut.
This is a twining vine with round to oval leaves, 1 to 3 inches long and perhaps two-thirds of that wide. The flowers range from clear yellow to orange and red, making quite a show in late spring to early summer. Fortunately, it is not as an aggressive a vine as Bittersweet or Japanese Honeysuckle and should be quite acceptable for most native plant gardens. We grow some named varieties of this plant: ‘Alabama Crimson’ is a darker red than the usual type; ‘John Clayton’ and ‘Sulphuria’ are both yellow; ‘Manifich’ is a very good orange with a clear yellow throat. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 9. Source: Purchased plants and Tom Dilatush (‘Manifich’).
This is a large coarse tree with extremely large leaves. The leaves can be as much as 2 feet long and 10 to 12 inches in width and can give the tree, when in leaf, a tropical appearance. The flowers are spectacular – I measured one this spring that was 15 inches across. Rose colored fruits in late summer to early fall produce seed that is pink, which is another interesting aspect of this magnificent tree. It appreciates moist, but not wet, soil and needs plenty of room to grow. Hardiness: Zone 5 to 8. Source: Seed from trees in Connecticut.
A wonderful small tree or large shrub, Sweetbay Magnolia prefers very moist, actually wet, areas although I know from experience it will survive quite dry situations as well. It is different from most Magnolias in that it requires acid soil. Light green leaves are not very large – they persist into late autumn. The creamy white flowers that are approximately 2 to 3 inches in diameter appear throughout the early summer and produce a very pleasant lemon scented aroma. Dark red seed follicles in the fall can be abundant enough to make a nice show. The variety ‘Henry Hicks’ is an evergreen form. Hardiness: Zone 5 to 9. Source: Purchased plants. Current source: Seed from a tree at the nursery that has survived -18° with no damage.
This is a great plant for wet areas. It produces a shrub that will get no more than 4 to 4 1/2 feet tall and slightly more than that wide. It has relatively small leaves that range from bluish-green to deep green in color. The stems are dark reddish-brown and give a nice effect in winter. The flowers are inconspicuous. This is an excellent plant for controlling erosion on the side of ponds or on stream banks. I know our Rhode Island clone is extremely salt tolerant. Hardiness: Zone 1 Source: Clones from Northern Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island and Alaska.
This is a plant that can take many different conditions and will produce plants that are quite variable, responding to these situations. It is extremely salt tolerant and can grow in sandy dune-type soil very close to the water’s edge. In those conditions it usually stays relatively short, growing 2 to 3 feet in height. Further inland, where it is happy on rather dry sandy slopes, it can produce plants that range to 6 feet or more in height. The leaves are rather small, averaging about 2 inches in length, shiny and very dark green with a good bit of mahogany hue, especially in the fall and early winter. This is a persistent leaved plant and will hold its leaves well into the winter. The berries on female plants are waxy, gray, and cover the stems on female plants. The berries are a staple food of tree swallows on their migration pattern heading south. Bayberry is very useful in stabilizing dunes and other difficult areas. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 6. Source: Seed from Rhode Island.
This little know plant is native to northern New England. The female plants produce red berries in August, making quite a show at that time of year. It likes relatively damp areas and is generally found within 20 to 25 feet of lake or streams. It can reach a fairly large size, growing 6 to 7 feet tall and at least that in width. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 6. Source: Northern Maine
Sourwood – Sorrel Tree
This is an ericaceous tree that can grow to a fairly large size – 25 to 30 feet in height and approximately 20 feet in spread. Its fairly large leaves, 3 to 8 inches long, are lustrous dark green in the summer and turn a beautiful mahogany in late summer and fall. The flowers in late summer are an ericaceous type, white urn shaped flowers forming beautiful drooping panicles. These can cover the tree to an extent that the foliage is barely seen – truly a magnificent sight. It likes the same soil conditions as rhododendrons and other ericaceous plants – moist, peaty, acid, well drained soil is ideal. Hardiness: Zone 5 to 9. Source: Seed from trees at the nursery.
This is a deciduous to semi-evergreen groundcover that spreads by rhizomes. It has fairly large, 2 to 4 inch long, leaves – predominately toothed, very similar to Pachysandra terminalis; however, they are dull deep green, somewhat veined. The flowers on this Pachysandra can be quite spectacular in the spring; they are 2 to 4 inch spikes of white flowers rising from the base of the stems. It is quite adaptable, and we have plants growing in very shady locations but also some that receive a good amount of sun. All in all, it is an excellent groundcover that likes light, organic, well-drained soil. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 9.
This is a deciduous vine with tendrils that can spread along the ground or climb whatever it encounters: trees, fences, walls, etc. The leaves have five compound, palmate leaflets – they are light green in summer and turn bronze-red in the fall. Indeed, it is in the fall when this plant makes its best show. It is distinguished from poison ivy, which it tends to accompany, by the fact that it has five compound leaflets as opposed to three for poison ivy. It is happy growing in almost any type of soil and is a good plant for covering unsightly areas. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 9. Source: Madison, CT.
This wonderful little groundcover has small, deep green leaves that are usually about 1/2 inch long and about 1/4 inch wide. Once established, this plant will spread by underground stems and above ground stems that touch the soil. It will very rarely get as high as one foot and can spread indefinitely if it is in a location it likes. It prefers well drained soil and indeed is a plant that tends to thrive on neglect in inhospitable places. Its flowers are not particularly showy, but its evergreen leaves make it a desirable groundcover. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 7. Source: Purchased plants.
Eastern White Pine
Everyone should know this magnificent tree, so I won’t say much except that it should be planted where it gets a good deal of sun, full sun being best. It will tolerate not only dry soil but also damp, very wet, conditions. It should be in an acid soil, and it is intolerant of air pollutants, such as ozone and sulfur dioxide. It is definitely not salt tolerant. As well as the type plant, we grow many of its clones, dwarf types, and one that might do well in a native plant situation where a narrow, tall evergreen tree is desired – Pinus strobus ‘Fastigiata’. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 7. Source: Purchased plants.
This is a wonderful little low growing groundcover plant that seems to seek out difficult areas to grow; i.e. between crevices in rock ledges. It has dark green, lustrous, compound leaves which are evergreen except in the most severe locations. Its white flowers are borne above the leaf canopy in early summer. It rarely gets more than 6 to 8 inches in height – generally much less. It likes acid soil and prefers to be on the dry side. This is a wonderful little groundcover and should not be overlooked. There are wonderful specimens growing between the rocks on Mt. Desert Island in Maine. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 7. Source: Tower Hill Botanic Garden.
Beach Plum is a rounded, dense suckering shrub that can grow to 6 feet in height. It is extremely salt tolerant and is very happy growing in almost pure sand on the secondary dunes, slightly away from the ocean. Areas like Cape Cod in Massachusetts are its favorite sites. White flowers in spring can turn this basically ugly duckling of a plant into a thing of beauty for a short period of time. Its fruit in the fall is useful for making jams and jellies. Being salt tolerant is its major attribute. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 6. Source: Cape Cod.
Prunus pumila depressa
Creeping Sand Cherry
As its name implies, this is a rather rapid growing groundcover form of Prunus. It produces a heavy, only 12 to 18 inch high, cover of shiny leaves in the summer but leaves a rather coarse tangle of bare branches in the winter. It has white flowers in the spring and black berries in the fall and is very adaptable to soil types. It is useful to rapidly cover areas of rubble, etc. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 7. Source: Arnold Arboretum.
This is a deciduous rhododendron that grows in the swamps and boggy areas of Canada and northern New England. Not a large plant, it rarely reaches 3 feet in height and width. The bloom is rosy-purple, flowering before the leaves appear in early May. Rhodora grows in the same type of location as Myrica gale and Chamaedaphne in northern bogs and, like them, could become a nice addition to wet areas in a natural plant garden. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 7. Source: Northern Maine.
This relatively small evergreen shrub grows in the same type of location as Rhodora although it likes slightly drier conditions. It too rarely reaches 3 feet in height and width. White flowers can cover the plant in early summer making quite a show, and its dark green leaves with hairy undersides make it a nice plant for moist areas. It can tolerate a good bit of shade, although sunny areas will produce a much better flower set. This plant was formerly known as Ledum groenlandicum. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 6. Source: Northern Maine
A rather coarse, upright plant growing 3 to 6 feet high and suckering quite freely, its erect branches can form dense thickets in almost any kind of soil. Single pink flowers, up to 2 1/2 inches across, bloom in early summer, and some flowering exists throughout the summer into early fall. Red fruit persists through the fall and winter. It can tolerate and even enjoy wet areas and edges of swamps. Hardiness: Zone 4 to 9. Source: Purchased plants.
This is very similar to Rosa carolina, but its reddish canes and glossy dark green leaves make it a more attractive plant. It is quite tolerant of salt conditions and does very well in sandy soil. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 7. Source: Purchased plants.
This is a shrub that loves wet soil – edges of streams and even swampy areas. It can grow to a height and width of 20 feet although it usually stays smaller. It’s not a bad looking shrub in the summer with fairly glossy small to medium size leaves, but it is in the spring when the gray catkins are very evident that the plant is at its best. These catkins are formed by the male flowers on the willow. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 8. Source: Madison, Connecticut.
A rather coarse large shrub growing 12 to 25 feet high with equal spread. It flowers early in the summer with 5 to 6 inch long panicles. While the flowers are quite noticeable, it is the scarlet berries in mid-summer that make this plant an outstanding addition to the native plant garden. A plant covered with these red berries can be quite a sight. Birds eat the fruit that is supposedly poisonous to humans. Not fussy as to soil type, it is generally found in rocky, dry areas and does best at high elevations that provide a cooler climate. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 6. Source: Northern Maine.
This is a small shrub, growing to perhaps 4 feet in height and less than that in width.
Meadowsweet does best in relatively moist, sandy soil and thrives on sandy beaches around ponds and lakes. It has white to pink flowers in mid-summer and can be quite attractive at that time. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 5. Source: Northern Maine.
This is very similar to Spiraea latifolia, growing in similar conditions, although it tolerates more moisture than S. latifolia. Its prominent flowers are a good deep pink on tight upright panicles – interesting in that they open from top to bottom which is unusual for this type of flower. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 6. Source: Northern Maine.
This species of Taxus has typical dark green Taxus foliage. Growing wider than high and relatively open, it is definitely an understory plant that thrives in moist, shady locations. Taxus canadensis likes sandy, well drained soil and cannot stand excessive heat or winter sun. It should be avoided if deer browsing is a problem. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 6. Source: New York State.
Northern White Cedar
Another common name for this plant is Eastern Arborvitae, and it is well known in the landscape trade for its many cultivars. The type plant can grow 40 to 60 feet in height with about a 10 to 15 foot spread. It is generally found in wet areas and very often provides the first layer of evergreen trees around a pond or lake in northern New England, backed up by the spruce and fir which grow further inland. If it is used in a native planting, some protection is necessary until it gets 8 to 10 feet in height since it is a favorite browse of deer. Indeed, in northern Maine, deer yards are generally found in stands of Thuja occidentalis. Along with Chamaecyparis thyoides, this plant makes a fine specimen for wet, swampy areas. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 7. Source: Northern Maine.
Vaccinium angustifolium – myrtilloides
This is a wonderful little groundcover that is not too fussy as to soil type. It has shiny leaves on a plant that will never get much over 18 inches tall, generally much less. It can grow in very poor sandy soil such as on the edge of sand pits and other barren areas. Urn shaped, white flowers are produced in early summer followed by small blueberries in August. These are the berries that are best for making blueberry pie. Vaccinium myrtilloides grows intermingled with Vaccinium angustifolium, and although the leaves are a bit different, it is almost impossible to distinguish them from each other We grow plants from the seed of berries harvested in southern Maine. These plantings include both V. angustifolium and myrtilloides, but they both provide the same form of groundcover. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 5. Source: See above.
This is a very nice looking shrub with glossy green leaves that turn spectacular colors in the fall, some turning a rich, dark mahogany color. It can be found upland in open fields that are quite dry, but it is most happy in wet, boggy areas where the soil is peaty and acidic. Plants can reach 6 to 8 feet in height with perhaps the same width although they are generally smaller than that. White, urn shaped flowers in early summer produce very delicious berries in mid summer. Many selected cultivars and hybrids are on the market, and these produce berries of somewhat phenomenal size. The native plants have berries that are much smaller than the plants commercially produced. We sell both named varieties and the type plant. Hardiness for the type plant: Zone 3 to 7. Source: Madison, Connecticut.
This plant, which produces the cranberries used for cranberry jelly, makes an excellent very low growing groundcover, growing only 2 to 4 inches in height and spreading indefinitely as it roots down readily from its stems. The leaves are quite small, only 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, and very narrow. They are evergreen, dark green in the summer, and turn dark red to purple in the winter – very attractive. Pink flowers are not really showy in the spring but, of course, the large berries in October make quite a show. It likes peaty, moist soil and is quite salt tolerant. I have found it growing in almost pure sand near a salt pond in Rhode Island. It can survive some shade; however, it does best in full sun. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 6. Source: Rhode Island.
Vaccinium vitis-idea minus
This is a tiny little evergreen plant growing primarily in alpine-type conditions. It likes peaty, well drained soil. Its leaves are very small and though bright green in summer turn a deep mahogany color in winter. It produces red berries, but they are usually not that noticeable. Its main attribute is its shiny evergreen leaves and as a filler for rocky areas.
Hardiness: Zone 2 to 6. Source: Unknown.
This is an understory plant of our northern forests, generally growing close to lakesides as it likes moist conditions. The branches root when they touch the ground, producing structures that are very easy to trip over, hence, its common name. It has large, oval 4 to 8 inch long leaves. The flowers are flattop, 3 to 5 inch diameter cymes, that are white and are produced in late spring – the fruit turns from red to purple in September. In most ways, it is a rather coarse plant in appearance although its leaves give it quite an effect. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 5. Source: Northern Maine.
Viburnum cassinoides is different from most viburnums in that it has bright shiny leaves. They are only about 2 to 3 inches long and about half that in width. V. cassinoides makes a very nice looking shrub growing to perhaps 8 to 10 feet in height. It has typical viburnum flowers in early summer, but this plant is best known for its fruit which turns from green to pink with purple centers as summer progresses. This sequence can be quite spectacular on plants that are growing in full sun. Peaty damp soil is what this viburnum likes, and it can grow on the edge of ponds in very wet conditions. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 7. Source: Northern Maine.
This is an upright, multi-stemmed rounded shrub with nice clean deep green foliage, cream colored flowers in the spring and blue to black fruit in late summer to early fall. Not fussy as to soil type, I find this plant growing in many locations, including pure sand near a salt pond in Rhode Island. Obviously, it is extremely salt tolerant. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 8. Source: Unknown.
This viburnum can grow into a rather large shrub, 8 to 10 feet in height with a spread of approximately the same. It has three lobed, relatively shiny, leaves and very showy white, 3 to 4 inch diameter, flat top cyme flowers. Plants growing in full sun can be quite spectacular when in bloom. The fruit, which matures in September but hangs on the plants throughout the winter, is bright red and is also an important attribute. The fruit is edible and can be used in jams and jellies. We’ve found turkeys feeding on the fruit of some of our larger plants in the nursery. It likes moist soil that should have good drainage. Hardiness: Zone 2 to 7. Source: Northern Maine.
The roots of this groundcover plant are indeed deep yellow, hence, its common name. It has compound leaves that tend to stand up over the plant, which only grows approximately 2 feet in height. Since it suckers from its roots, it can spread indefinitely if it is in a good location. Its flowers and fruit are not very apparent or interesting, but it can produce an extremely dense groundcover in moist but well drained soil. Acid soil is preferable, and it can take full sun or partial shade. Hardiness: Zone 3 to 9. Source: North Carolina.
This is a nice small shrub with attractive semi-shiny leaves that produce good fall color. The bell shaped flowers in late spring are very appealing. It likes well drained soil but can also withstand a fair amount of moisture – acid soil is a must. This plant should be used more often than it is in both the landscape and in native plant situations. It also gives us the opportunity to say we grow everything from A to Z. Hardiness: Zone 5 to 9. Source: Purchased plants.
A few more thoughts – We used to grow several other native shrubs including Speckled Alder (Alnus rugosa), Pin Cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), and Groundsel Bush (Baccharis halimifolia), plus others. However, we sold so few of them that we had to discontinue growing them. We hope this will not be the case with the varieties we are now growing. Actually, we’d like to increase the number of species we grow if there is enough interest. Let us know if you need any plants that we do not have at the present time.
I have not included some southeastern species that are hardy in New England but do not fit into my idea of ‘native plants” – Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) is an example.
If you need more information regarding these plants, please give us a call. I would be glad to share any information I have with you. Better yet, visit the native plant garden. The plants are still small but can give you a good idea how the plants we are growing.