My Favorite Tree Blackgum, Nyssa sylvatica

Named for its dark, glossy leaves, Blackgum is a seldom used treasure of the Northeast native tree species! Primarily planted as a shade tree and for habitat restoration, this 30-50’ tall beauty produces a kaleidoscope of unparalleled fall color in crimson, purple, orange, and yellow. The inconspicuous flowers support local bees and the resulting black drupe fruits are a favorite of many local and migratory birds. They tolerate almost any condition but, I prefer to plant Blackgum as a specimen in open settings where they can attain full size.

Evan T. Ralph, Design Director Back to Nature, Oldwick, NJ (908) 439-4639 •

My Favorite Shrub Annabelle Hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’

The Annabelle Hydrangea is clearly my favorite shrub. Hearty and a reliable repeat bloomer, it has never let me down. I have even used it as a hedge! This shrub does especially well in shady areas but it can tolerate sun with sufficient moisture. Its huge round heads of pure white blooms are striking from summer into September and can be cut for fresh or dried arrangements. Note that flowers are on the current season’s growth (“new wood”) so for best results, stems should be cut to the ground in late winter.

Valentine Garcia, Owner Valentine Gardens, Upper Marlboro, MD (202) 494-8008

My Favorite Ground Cover Russian Stonecrop, Sedum kamtschaticum

This groundcover is a tough, sun-loving, drought resistant, compact plant. With a 6-8” height, thick-

glossy green foliage and yellow clusters of flowers that bloom in early to mid-summer, it performs well for homeowners who don’t claim to have a green thumb. Its versatility allows for planting in a number of applications. Russian Stonecrop can complement the understory of small ornamental trees, be used in colorful gardens, and placed in the gaps of stone walls and natural stone steppers.

Bob Bertog, CLP, President Bertog Landscape Company, Wheeling, Il (847) 279-0028 •