Featured Plants: Amazing Holly, Hypericum and Rhododendron

Ilex glabra ‘Gem Box’ This lovely inkberry is a wonderful alternative to boxwood if boxwood blight has been an issue in your region, or if you simply want to plant something cool and different. Like Boxwood, ‘Gem Box’ is evergreen and grows in full sun to shade. ‘Gem Box’ has dense, dark green shiny foliage and grows to 24” to 36” tall and wide. It’s hardy in Zones 5 – 9 and is deer and rabbit resistant.

Hypericum inodorum I love this small shrub (also referred to as a ‘woody’ perennial in colder zones), for its cheerful yellow flowers (that butterflies love) in early summer, but even more for the vibrant summer berries that follow. Commonly called St. John’s Wort, this compact plant grows 24” to 36” tall. The brilliant berries can be yellow, white, orange, salmon-pink or red (the berries have long been used in the cut flower industry). Hypericum ‘Pumpkin’ has thrived in my Maine gardens for years (pictured). Hypericum enjoys full to part sun and can be pruned back hard in late winter. In colder zones, like mine (Zone 5), it naturally dies back to the ground, pushing new growth from its base. This deer resistant beauty is drought tolerant once established and is snubbed by deer. Most references state that it is hardy in Zones 6 – 9, but I have grown it in upstate New York and in Maine, both Zone 5. I site it in protected areas – out of the path of winter winds, and near the foundation of my home.

Rhododendron mucronulatum Commonly called Korean Rhododendron, this multi-seasonal interest deciduous shrub sports striking lavender or pink flowers on leafless stems in early spring. It is one of the earliest of all Rhododendrons to flower. The attractive green leaves then turn a spectacular red-yellow in fall. ‘Cornell Pink’ is one of the most commonly sold cultivars. The shrub grows between 2’ and 4’ and enjoys part sun to shade. Shallow rooted, like other Rhododendrons, it benefits from a mulch application around its base. Although hardy to minus 20, it should be sited in a sheltered spot, free of winter winds, to protect flower buds. (photo Broken Arrow Nursery)

That said, in colder zones, do not place Korean Rhododendron in a sunny, southern exposure where plants can be tricked into breaking dormancy during winter thaws, and then shocked by returning cold temperatures. Korean Rhododendrons are pretty drought tolerant once established, but HATE (i.e., die) wet soil. Korean Rhododendron is hardy in zones 4 – 7. (photo of mine taken a few weeks ago – gorgeous fall foliage.!)