A Home for Your Gnome

Gardening Advice from a Fan of Fun!

Alternative Shrubs

September 5, 2022 | Plants

The dilemma that faces us every planting season (and yes, Fall is a fantastic time to plant), when it comes to landscaping, is this. Do we venture to install some unique plants and run the risk of having them die before we can really appreciate them? Or do we stick to the tried and true, status quo, rubber stamp look that will “conform” to the neighborhood? With so many plants on the market, I think we owe it to ourselves to be adventurous. This doesn’t necessarily mean making the trip to Cherokee and frittering away your hard-earned cash in the casino. I’m saying, “creep a little closer to the horticultural edge”.  Stand apart from the crowd. Here are some plants that are definitely worthy of gracing most any yard.



Bluebeard – Caryopteris:   nice blue flowers mid to late summer.

Bottlebrush Buckeye – Aesculus parviflora:   large white bottlebrush summer flowers, yellow fall color.

Candy Corn Double Play Spiraea – Spiraea japonica “Candy Corn” – beautiful yellow foliage turning red to orange in fall, pinkish spring blooms.

Dwarf Fothergilla – Fothergilla gardenia:   fragrant bottlebrush spring bloom, good fall color.

Deciduous Holly – Ilex verticillate:  lots of berries in early winter, wildlife magnet, needs male.

Heart-a-Bustin – Euonymus americana: nice native with showy ornamental fruit in fall.

Summersweet Clethra – Clethra alnifolia: very fragrant bottlebrush blooms in mid-summer.

Virginia Sweetspire – Itea Virginica:  compact, cascading white spring bloom, good fall color.


Dwarf Camellia – Camellia japonica: too many to name here. Nice foliage with rose-like winter flowers.

Dwarf Hinoki Cypress – Chamaecyparis obtuse “Nana gracillus”:  attractive as a specimen (don’t mass plant), sculpted look, rich green color.

Fragrant Daphne – Daphne odora: a bit temperamental but if you can’t get one to be happy the late winter fragrance will knock your socks off!

Georgia Petite Indian Hawthorn – Rhaphiolepis x delacourii “Georgia petite”:   Disease resistant compact shrub with popcorn-like white flowers that turn into dark blue berries.

Jewel Box Distylium – Distylium hybrid: compact rounded habit makes this a great alternative to many boxwood (disease magnets) and holly.

Mountain Fire Pieris – Pieris japonica “Mountain Fire”: red new growth with cascading pearls of white flowers in the spring.

Northern Bayberry – Myrica Pennsylvania: (semi-evergreen) shiny, aromatic foliage, not really known for it’s berries. Good native shrub for borders.

* Do a bit of Googling for more cultural details (sun/shade, soil conditions, etc.)

Just remember that when it comes to any planting the key is in the soil and bed preparation. Does “dig a $20 hole for a $10 plant” sound familiar? (Good luck finding a $10 plant). It’s very true. The proper planting conditions are every bit as important to the success of a plant as is the amount of sun or shade it receives. If you can’t find these plants immediately make it into a game or scavenger hunt. Some day when you least expect it that elusive shrub will leap out at you and say, “I want to be in your garden!”.