Landscape Architects Share Their Favorite Tree, Shrub and Groundcover

My Favorite Tree

Paperbark Maple
(Acer griseum)

Paperbark MapleThere are plenty of options for ornamental trees in the spring and summer, but what about interest in the fall and winter? The answer: Paperbark maple. This small specimen tree will grow to a maximum height of 20-30 feet with a compact, oval shape. In the fall, the trifoliate leaves range from bright red to bronze, but the tree’s most unique quality is its exfoliating reddish-brown bark. When viewed with the sun behind it, the translucent bark glows bright red as if it were on fire! Use this as a specimen tree in a small yard or in a grove.

Patrick Whealton
Landscape Designer
Slater Associates, Inc., Columbia, MD
(410) 992-0001 •

My Favorite Shrub

Prairie Dropseed Grass
(Sporobolus heterolepis)

Prairie Dropseed GrassThis North American native is a clump-forming, perennial grass and a textural treat in the garden landscape. I like using it on the edges as a bed definer or as a massing that creates a flowing carpet of soft, hair-like, fine green foliage. The arching flower panicles on slender stems, appearing as a light mist over the attractive mounding leaves, and releasing a unique light fragrance often-described as a combination of popcorn and cilantro. In fall, the tiny mature seeds drop to the ground, hence the name. With a fresh layering of snow, the hillocks form an attractive winter blanket.

Matt Wilkens, ASLA, PLA
Damon Farber Landscape Architects, Minneapolis, MN
(612) 332-7522 •

My Favorite Groundcover

(Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Berry BushI love this plant for its versatility in the landscape, especially in poor, acidic or sandy soils. This North American native does best in full sun to partial shade, and is somewhat tolerant of urban conditions. Its miniature, leathery leaves are yellow-green in the spring (with whitish pink flowers), dark-green in summer and reddish-purple in the fall. Red berries in hardy clusters persist in fall and winter, which give this plant its namesake. I’ll use it as a ground cover over rock walls and also in container plantings to showcase its red berries during the dismal months.

Jamie Tierney mch
Landscape Architect, Field Manager
Parterre Garden Services, Cambridge, MA
(617) 492-2230 •

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