Northern Virginia Landscape Design: Popular Plant Varieties
Here in Northern Virginia we are located in the transition between southern and northern climate zones. Because of that, we are able to enjoy trees and plants that are typically seen in greater abundance to our south. Our long, moderate autumn and spring seasons, combined with a short winter, give us the advantage in terms of a long growing season that provides our landscape designers and garden managers many options. Here are just a few of the shrubs that are staples in our landscape designs.
The Serviceberry (aka Juneberry or Shadblow) is a multi-stemmed ornamental tree that is resilient and adaptable to a variety of soil, moisture and light conditions. Buyers usually want it for its brilliant fall foliage even though serviceberry produces flowers in spring, edible fruits in summer, and interesting branch structure in all the seasons.
Serviceberry is a Maryland-Virginia native and grows wild as an understory tree similar to Redbud or Dogwood. It’s a type of tree that our landscape designers love to include in their landscape designs because they can plant ground cover under the canopy and set low shrubs behind it to create a unified composition that is anchored by the tree. The canopy spreads out in a shallow umbrella shape, floating above multiple trunks. The branch and trunk structure itself is smooth and beautiful to look at.
The wispy white flowers of the serviceberry bloom in early spring and last about a week. The real color season for Serviceberry starts mid-June when the fruit (it looks like a miniature apple) shows in bright red clusters. The berries are edible once they’ve ripened to a deep purple color. The ripe berries attract birds.
A late winter bloomer, Paperbush Plant blooms in February and fills the air with fragrance until the blossoms drop off in April. Its creamy yellow flower clusters give way to blue-green leaves that turn yellow in fall. After the foliage drops, it reveals a robust branch structure and rich cinnamon-toned bark.
The Paperbush shows interesting characteristics through four seasons. The branching structure of the plant is one of its highlights. When the growth cycle starts every year, each stem divides into three. This creates a beautiful architecture that becomes visible when the leaves drop in the fall. It naturally creates this branching structure so it doesn’t need pruning.
The Maryland-Virginia area is the northern-most border for the paper bush plant. So, even though it does quite well in our climate zone, it has been somewhat overlooked and under-represented in our area landscape designs.
The radiant yellow blossoms of forsythia (a.k.a. Golden Bells) are one of the first signs of spring in the Northern Virginia climate zone. Forsythia delivers a pop of brightness when most of the landscape is bare and weeks away from coming back to life. The flowers arrive well before the leaves, just as they do on that other early spring bloomer the Redbud tree. The forsythia belongs to the same family as the olive tree.
Our landscape designs typically specify forsythia for borders and hedges. This is a fairly low-maintenance plant, but will do best when planted in full sun and a well-drained soil.
Our landscape designers and garden managers work together to select the best plants for the conditions on your property as well as those that will contribute aesthetically to your landscaping. If you’d like to have assess your current garden composition, please contact one of our garden management specialists.