Selecting Plants That Grow – Encore Expert Advice

Tom Smarr1ENCORE!  Tom Smarr, now Director of Horticulture at the High Line in New York City, offers timeless advice on selecting plants that will grow.  This 2011 blog deserved an encore post!
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“In the city, tough plants go into the ground. When you choose your garden plants, consider sunlight, moisture, bloom color and height. Know your exposure.  Notice how much sun and shade are in different areas of your garden.”   – Tom Smarr                               

Determine Your Sunlight Levels:
Full Sun – 6 hours or more of direct sunlight (in summer)

Part-sun – 2 to 6 hours of direct sunlight
Part-shade – 1-2 hours of direct sunlight
Light shade – Dappled sunlight, or shade below open sky
Here are some of Tom’s favorite plants by sun level:
1. Full sun:  Black-Eye Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’)
Dwarf New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’)
Husker Red Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’)
Daylilies (Hemerocallis cultivars)
Blue Licorice Giant Hyssop (Agastache scrophulariifolia ‘Blue Licorice’)
Blue Ice Amsonia
“All of these are medium to tall plants that would grow great in a perennial boarder or meadow style with ornamental grasses.  These provide a season of blooms and foliage interest and are hardy in urban garden conditions.”
2. Medium sun:
Heavy Metal and Shenandoah Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum) plus Little Blue Stem (Schizachryium scoparium ‘The Blues’) are two great grasses that are durable and have nice solid color.
Snow Flurry (Symphyotrichum ericoides) is a low growing, groundcover type aster.
Sheffield Pink Florist Daisy (Chrysanthemum x morifolium ‘Sheffield Pink’) is a hardy blooming chrysanthemum along with many other cultivars provide different colors in the garden for autumn.
All of these will do fine in full sun to medium light and mixed with plants in the full sun category.
A favorite shrub is Dwarf Witch-alder (Fothergilla gardenia) an early spring flowers with vibrant autumn foliage.
3. Part Shade to Shade:
Pachysandra is a dependable groundcover as is Liriope spicata that is a grass-like blooming plant.
•Tom’s favorites are Hydrangeas that provide good summer color and mounding shrubs.  Popular cultivars are mop head types like ‘Blushing Bride’ and ‘Endless Summer’ or a lacecap variety like ‘Blue Billow’.
•He also likes Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) as it has unique flowers and leaves. •Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides) is a groundcover that does well in shady conditions like many other woodland favorites seen at Garden in the Woods in Framingham.
Tom admits that plants for shady sites can be tough as little or no light reaches the ground.  He recommends trying some of the groundcovers in Part Shade and thinking uniquely about the location for garden ornaments.

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