We are looking for a slightly unkempt or cottage garden look at our home, yet need it to be low maintenance. There is sufficient room to tier large plants; we would like evergreens stepped down to flowering deciduous shrubs with trees interspersed. We would love a white birch, but don’t want to use all the chemicals we’ve had to with past birches. Any ideas for a substitute, or are there hardier, less insect-prone white birches?
We already plan on sunburst locust, beech and tri-color beech trees, dogwoods & Japanese maples. Any suggestions for flowering shrubs other than potentilla, wiegela, forsythia and lilac? We are trying for continual color.
An effective way to have continual color in your garden would be to not make your selections solely on a plant’s flower, but more on its ability to have multi-seasonal appeal. Since you’ve stated that you have sufficient room, adding both multi-seasonal shrub choices as well as keeping a few single-season plants like the lilac and forsythia may suit your needs. I would suggest adding some of the smaller spireas (‘Neon Flash,’ ‘Goldflame‚’ etc.), Fothergilla, viburnums, Clethra and witch hazels to name a few.
As for the white birch, unfortunately there isn’t a good white-barked substitution. However, the river birch ‘Heritage’ (Betula nigra ‘Heritage’) is an excellent alternative. Red maple (Acer rubrum, clump form) is also a good substitution for the unique, 3-pronged birch silhouette.