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For the Edge of the Woods (part 1)

Now the apple tree is gone from the edge of our woods, I will miss its leaning arch and spring display. What can I plant to add back some of that drama?

Dogwood and redbud, which often grow at these margins, always seem magical to me with their flowers floating on the naked branches before leaves emerge. Unfortunately dogwood needs more moisture than I can provide — and redbud wants alkaline soil, and would hate the sand here.

Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)? This eight- to ten-foot shrub bears twelve-inch tall upright, conical clusters of showy white flowers in July. Hand-shaped leaves, nine inches long, turn amber in fall. Native from Virginia to Florida, it prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil — but although slow to get established, then it's tough and aggressive, tolerating moderate shade and dry soil. In fact, tree expert Michael A. Dirr calls it "one of the most reliable plants for flower production in shade."

It suckers prolifically, forming huge stands, and suppressing other plants under it. I wonder whether it will grow more slowly here at the edge of its cold tolerance, plus in dry soil — particularly if I plant it back into the woods a bit, in more shade? If not, it could end up filling most of my woods.

Chokeberries (Aronia) have white flowers in spring, bright yellow; orange and red leaves in fall; and showy red, purple or black berries (in most varieties persistent, that is they last through the winter). Birds like them, deer not much. Natives to the Eastern US, they like full sun or partial shade, and moist, well-drained soil — but are notable for their tolerance to wet or dry soil. They get six to ten feet tall and wide. A. arbutifolia 'Brilliantissima' is the one I want, with red in fall as bright as a burning bush.

Most cotoneasters which grow this far north need full sun, but hedge cotoneaster (C. lucidus), from Siberia, will take some shade. Though it likes regular moisture, it does quite well in dry situations. Six to ten feet tall and wide, its glossy, deep green leaves turn yellow or red in fall. Light pink flowers in mid to late spring are followed by pretty, persistent black fruit, which attracts birds, but not often deer.

When I searched my database of interesting plants for "shrub," "dry," and "shade," these came up ... and more; I'll continue with the list week

© Copyright 2003 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, datex 2003

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