The most unusual trees and shrubs for the garden
Each gardener, regardless of the size of his plot, dreams of making his garden unique and unique. The non-standard approach in the selection of plants in this matter is as effective as the choice of an unusual design style. One of the easiest ways to give your garden an individual touch, to make it truly unique and to draw admiring attention of passers-by and guests to it is to choose trees and shrubs from the exotics category. Their status as unsuitable for growing in our climate, very rare plants literally changes the perception of the garden. Of course, in the cultivation of exotics and caring for them there are many difficulties. And often, for their introduction to the site, you need to be prepared for growing in tubs, and not in the soil and long waiting time with remote order. But each such plant is truly unique and unique.
Exotics at your fingertips: search and selection tips
Any landscape designer, and an experienced gardener will confirm that there are two ways to give your garden an individual look:
- Work with the whole landscape, creating unique compositions, carefully thinking through every detail from the structure to the lines, the selection of colors and accessories.
- The introduction of only 1-2 plants, but belonging to the number of unusual, exclusive trees and shrubs. They can replace a carefully thought-out design and make up for the lack of originality of any project. True, in the search for such special plants it is better to be careful and adhere to some rules.
Admiring exotic plants, succumbing to the charm of tropical gardens and lovingly viewing the landscapes of distant lands while relaxing, gardeners all over the world are inspired and then often try to bring some unusual and liked touches to their garden. But in search of exoticism for your garden - unusual plants that are extremely rare - you need to be careful and attentive. Just to buy a seedling in foreign stores so that your site is decorated with an exotic tree or shrub, will not be enough.
Most likely such a plant will not take root. Particular care should be taken in relation to those plants that are very popular in European horticulture. Their winter hardiness for Western Europe does not mean that plants will survive in the middle lane. Therefore, from European catalogs you write out crops only after consulting with experienced gardeners or after checking the degree of their winter hardiness. Otherwise, the long-awaited new products are likely to die during the first winter.
In the search for the most unusual large plants for your site, you should adhere to the same rules by which you select more familiar crops. First of all, focus on local varieties and an assortment of local nurseries and garden centers, catalogs of landscape firms in your country. The best gardeners in your region have probably already tested dozens of different plant species and, through trial and error, have found those crops that are able to adapt to a specific climate.
Along with plants familiar to us, all nurseries, without exception, also sell exotic novelties. And sometimes these are the same types and varieties of plants that we are so eager to buy on foreign sites. But thanks to many years of cultivation in climatic conditions identical to your garden or close to it, such plants are much more resistant and hardy. And the risk of losing them is much less.
So, if you want to decorate your garden with an exotic novelty and stand out from the neighbors, then first of all you need to take a closer look at the assortment of trees and shrubs in local horticultural enterprises. In their catalogs you will definitely find unusual, but well-suited cultures for your garden. And the number of such plants will be exactly more than one dozen. So your perfect exotic accent is probably closer than it sounds.
Another great option for finding exotic shrubs and woody plants is visiting exhibitions and fairs. After all, not only large garden centers participate in them, but also private garden farms and even individual gardeners, whose success can be useful to you. As a last resort, you can always ask for advice and guidance in finding exotic cultures that can adapt well to your climate.
Today, botanical gardens have always served and are a reliable source of information about winter hardiness and cultural tests of a variety of exotic plants. They also offer exotic plants for sale, and in their assortment there are those plants that cannot be found in nurseries and garden centers.
When deciding to search for an exotic plant for your garden, you need to stock up not only with perseverance and patience, get ready for a long search that requires informed decisions, but also carefully calculate your budget. The fact is that such plants, due to their rarity, complexity of selection and reproduction, are likely to cost a lot. Along with conifers, it is exotics that are considered the most expensive species of seedlings.
TOP 9 fashionable exotics
1. Snow tree
Blooming snow tree or Snowflake Virgin, or Hionanthus Virgin (Chionanthus virginicus) - the spectacle is truly unforgettable. At home, this two-meter and far from modest beautifully flowering representative of the North American flora is known only as "grandfather's beard."
Being in full bloom, this plant flaunts an almost continuous fringe of air drooping inflorescences from unusual flowers with thin lobes of perianth, which really together look like a kind of beard.
A snow florist, snowman or snow tree combines seemingly opposite characteristics. Tropical oblong-ovate leaves up to 20 cm long with a shiny surface fall dazzling in bright yellow color. But panicle inflorescences up to 25 cm long, weakly aromatic, consisting of numerous white “strings” of flowers, are similar to peculiar bunches of wool or ribbons and seem strikingly northern.
At the same time, the whole plant, hung with this luxurious fringe, as if fluttering in the wind, is in constant motion.
The ability of a chionanthus to bloom even after a harsh winter is explained very simply: his flowers bloom only on young twigs. In central Russia, this shrub grows well with careful shelter, will bloom every year. And for the sake of such a spectacle, you should try to prepare it for the winter. The main thing is to provide good lighting and light soil with a pH of 6.5.
2. Canadian Scarlet, or Cercis
Another two very beautiful shrubs are also limited by two-meter maximum height - Cercis canadian (Cercis canadensis), we have a better known name Scarlet Canadian. Despite the status of a non-frost-resistant plant, it is able to prove itself not only in the southern regions or in the tub culture. Its velvet, when blooming, is bright red, then green, and in autumn the dark red leaves are unparalleled, and the plant surprises not only with their heart-shaped form and the beauty of the veins, but also with the grace of silhouette. They are so architectural in the plant that they seem to be literally works of art in flower arrangements.
Tsercis also boasts non-standard flowering. Pink-purple, very elegant flowers are collected in dense bunches that completely cover both annual and old shoots, literally turning the whole plant into a pink vision in spring. Flowers bloom simultaneously with the beginning of the blooming of leaves.
At a young age, cercis requires a stronger shelter, but with a protected location it gradually increases its winter hardiness, although it may not bloom in the next year during extremely harsh winters. This plant is not only very effective, but also drought tolerant. He will need only the sun and alkaline drained soil.
3. Styrax Japanese
It is difficult to imagine a culture with more massive snow-white bloom than Styrax Japanese (Styrax japonicus) It is practically unknown in our country, but one look at the white foam of flowers that covered the tree in June makes you love this plant forever. White bells bloom in loose inflorescences, elegantly hanging on brown pedicels and flaunting the same center of stamens when all fruit trees have faded and seemingly delicate watercolor colors in the garden is no longer in place.
Styrax requires growing in sunny or semi-shady areas, complete protection from the wind and very fertile soil. Difficulties in the cultivation of this plant arise with the provision of the correct soil characteristics, since Styrax does not like lime. Despite the fact that usually only young trees need protection, in the middle lane the styrax is able to winter successfully and bloom beautifully only if it covers for the winter with at least a thick layer of dry leaves.
4. Lily of the valley tree
The most beautiful bell-shaped flowers, without exaggeration, are characteristic of North American lily of the valley, or Galesia Caroline (Helesia carolina) This is a unique plant in which drooping elegant bells of flowers on twigs really remind of lilies of the valley.
Despite its reputation, it is a fairly frost-resistant plant. Lily of the valley tree, subject to shelter for the winter and planting in sheltered places, in the company of large shrubs, can winter in the middle lane. Careful selection of soil that does not contain lime and fertile, ensuring good lighting in full is paid off by the beauty of the flowering plant, by the scattering of elegant bells that adorn the garden in May-June. The advantages of the lily of the valley tree include the fact that the flowers of this plant blossom simultaneously with the leaves: the bush literally changes before our eyes in a matter of days.
5. Chocolate Liana
Among the climbing plants today, a true exotic that our flower growers are just discovering can be considered East Asian chocolate creeper, or Akebia quintuple (Akebia quinata) This is an evergreen vine up to 10 m long with five-fingered, very stiff leaves and purple-chocolate flowers even manages to form edible fruits.
To protect the winter, the liana must be removed from its support, laid in rings and covered with dry foliage. But the efforts will not have to regret even a day. With age, akebia increases its winter hardiness more and more.
6. Ramping Campsis
Campsis rooted, or Tecoma (Campsis radicans) - a surprisingly spectacular and fast-growing liana, also known as the trombone. Cirrus leaves up to 25 cm in length and striking plentiful flowering with original flowers make campsis one of the most beautiful large-flowered vines. Tubular, trombone-like flowers reach 9 cm in length with the same diameter, collected in brushes of 10-15 pcs. The massiveness of the inflorescences makes flowering throughout the summer even more powerful.
When grown on the south side of the house, the plant wintes well and can withstand frosts down to minus 35, subject to shelter. Without it, it winters at minus 20. Occasionally, only young shoots suffer from it, but thanks to the rapid growth, the campis is perfectly restored.
7. Tulip tree
Liriodendron tulip, or real tulip tree, or lyran (Liriodendron tulipifera) - one of the most beautiful flowering decorative trees that can successfully bloom for centuries. Quadrangular light green leaves with an unusual color tone emphasize the grace of the original light green-red flowers with sepals turned downwards, resembling a hybrid of cyclamens and tulips in shape and reaching 10 cm in diameter.
Demanding on soil fertility and good lighting, this incomparable beauty puts up with frosts down to -30, and when grown with protection in the early years and when using already acclimatized plants, it is even more hardy.
8. Horse chestnut pavia
Beautifully flowering view of Horse ChestnutsHorse chestnut red, or Horse Chestnut Pavia (Aesculus pavia) deserves much more distribution. It can be grown virtually in the same regions where ordinary horse chestnut also grows successfully. The main advantages of this species are not even in moderate sizes, although the trees do not exceed 3 m in height and develop in the form, rather, of shrubs.
Young leaves are painted red, changing to classic green only at the beginning of summer. And the bloom of the Pavia is able to compete with the best garden stars. Red-yellow flowers, collected in delicious pyramids and panicles of inflorescences, seem not just catchy, but unusually elegant. This red giant has no equal. And for the cultivation of everything, it is necessary to provide easy warming for the winter (but even without it, when the freezing occurs, the pavia is well restored).
One of a kind and Paulownia, or Adam tree (Paulownia), or dragon tree. Deciduous or semi-evergreen spectacular medium-sized trees with surprisingly picturesque crown patterns and large whole-cut leaves on long stalks attract attention, primarily, with flower bells with a five-lobed limb, reminiscent of gloxinia flowers. Gathering in large apical panicles of inflorescences, painted in white, purple or blue, the flowers turn each tree into an unforgettable lilac cloud.
Paulownia is demanding on watering and top dressing, it needs extremely careful selection of sites and shelter, it can freeze to the level of snow. But she pays for all the risks with her beauty.
Fashionable "almost exotics"
There are plants for which exotus status can be considered controversial today. The thing is that these cultures, as a result of a sharp jump in popularity and the establishment of a gardening fashion for planting in decorative compositions, have recently been found in garden centers on almost every corner. And they can no longer be considered as unusual as exotics with much less popularity. They are truly exotic in origin and catchiness, but fashion is gradually changing their status.
Among these plants, a lover of acidic soils, false camellia Stuart pseudocamella (Stewartia pseudocamellia) Just over a dozen years ago, almost no one heard about her, but today she is invariably found in an assortment of flowering European shrubs. White cupped flowers and a very bright autumn crown color and good winter hardiness in conditions similar to Western Europe made the stewart almost as popular in the West as rhododendrons. And her bark is very original, unevenly colored and exfoliating. And whether it is still exotic, there is an active debate among designers. In winter hardiness, it is similar to a tulip tree, and with age it is more and more hardy.
Almost the same rise in popularity has recently been characteristic of other shrubs and trees. To the exotics, which are becoming more familiar, belong:
- Yellow flowered Weigel Middendorff (Weigela middendorffiana) It is so outwardly different from ordinary weigel with white and pink flowers that it seems like a completely different shrub. It grows to 1.5 m and blooms in May-June, capable of repeated late summer blooming, yellow weigel slightly freezes, with timely forming pruning after flowering, it blooms luxuriantly even in the middle lane.
- Eastern spruce (Picea orientalis) golden form “Aureospica” with shortened needles and filigree branch structure, underlined by dazzling sunny young branches.
- Sakura, or Finely sawed cherries (Prunus serrulata), which are increasingly being decided to plant not only in gardens, but also used in urban landscaping due to the cultivation of varieties that are well restored when freezing.
- The main competitor to sakura Three-blade almonds, or Louisania three-lobed (Prunus triloba), growing in bushes up to 2 m in height with spectacular pink terry flowers blooming in April-May before the leaves and turning this almond into one of the most picturesque spectacles. The plant tenderness of flowering only emphasizes the dark color of the branches.
- Catalpa is beautiful (Catalpa speciosa), a beautifully flowering species of the best of the trees for cutting, which, despite the seemingly low winter hardiness, is already grown in our country. During flowering, which lasts about a month in June-July, catalps produce amazing bluebells of asymmetric flowers in inflorescences of up to 50 pcs, after flowering of which long fruits, similar to green icicles, up to 40 cm in length are formed, remaining on the tree almost all winter.
- Full-flowered Wisteria, or wisteria (Wisteria) - the legendary liana with hanging lilac brushes of inflorescences. Wisteria does not bloom with us every year, but it grows rapidly and requires careful shelter with removal of the support and air-dry wrapping.
- Magnolia Siebold (Magnolia sieboldii) with its touching snow-white flowers and yellow-flowered varieties of magnolia "Butterfly" and "Yellow Bird" with an unusual color.
- Ginkgo bilobate, or Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgo biloba) - a legendary healing plant and a gigantic tree that is perfectly formed in the form of a bush. Its two-lobed leaves are as beautiful as the blooms.
- Giant and amazing picturesque Sophora Japanese (Sophoph japonica, which today was re-qualified as a Japanese styphnobius (Styphnolobium japonicum)) - a strikingly beautiful tree or shrub with unique silhouettes of branches and very beautiful shiny dark green leaves of a complex-cirrus type, releasing tassels of white-green flowers in mid-summer.
- Chinese Maple Species - Maple gray (Acer griseum) with its unique bark and orange-red autumn leaves. The reddish bark on the trunks exfoliates like paper rolls and the originality of the tree is visible even at a distance. And a spectacle of such beauty is difficult to meet with any other tree giant.
- Rosaceae Kuril shrubby tea, Five-leaved shrub or Shrubby cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticosaformerly known as Pentaphylloides fruticosa) is usually flaunted with white and yellow flowers, but the variety “Princess” surprises with a May start and bright pink flowers, which gradually turn pale. Outwardly, this variety seems more like an exotic rosehip than a Kuril tea. The variety “Red Ace” also belongs to the exotic, in which until the autumn carmine-red flowers bloom relentlessly, then changing color to orange.
Alternative to Exotics
It is not worth it to be upset that most of the plants so popular in the West cannot take root because of harsh winters. You can always find an alternative and a close relative for each plant, which with practically the same appearance will be much more frost-resistant. This interchangeability is especially pronounced in maples, which for each species have their own suitable "copy".
Unique Red Maple, or maple honshu (Acer rufinerve), famous due to the beautiful pattern on the bark, will not grow in the middle lane or will develop as a shrub, the bark of which is almost imperceptible. But it can be replaced by Green maple (Acer tegmentosum), which will form powerful trunks, which, albeit different in design, but also show off a very unusual bark.
With help Japanese Maples (Acer japonicum) can be replaced with exotic False Maple Maple (Acer pseudosieboldianum) A magnificent Forsythia ovalifolia, or Forsythia ovoid (Forsythia ovata) can successfully replace any non-resistant species or variety of these early flowering shrubs.
There is another great option that does not require the selection of plants according to the degree of frost resistance. You can grow any exotic shrub or tree in the form of a tub plant with wintering indoors. True, transporting huge containers with very large plants will require considerable effort. But then you can grow even the best tropical species and have no doubt whether they will winter from you.
Secrets of choosing conditions for exotics in the garden
Be prepared for a pleasant surprise. Adapted exotics, unknown to most gardeners, but already growing with local pioneers, may not be as demanding as typical plants for your climate. Especially when it comes to copiously flowering crops. Often the only drawback of such plants is their obscurity. Already adapted to a specific climate, even seemingly tropical crops with the right selection of growing conditions are most often content with literally minimal care.
But the selection of conditions for any exotism is a task of really primary importance. For plants that are atypical for your climate and are among the rare species, you need to carefully monitor lighting and soil. A place for growing exotics must be sought, regardless of its individual preferences, among the warmest areas on the site, protected from winds and drafts, located on the south side of buildings and preferably protected from adverse and cold winds by bushes or walls.
Unusual shrubs and trees will be able to take root only on well-heated sunny or semi-shady locations. Shade-loving plants are planted in partial shade, photophilous - in the brightest southern locations. A prerequisite for growing any, even the most hygrophilous exot (regardless of individual preferences for the composition of the soil) is good drainage of the soil, its deep development, and no risk of stagnation of water. In a word, it is necessary to select quiet, warm corners with the most stable conditions.