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A Landscaper's Natural Garden

Check out these favorite plants found in Doug Davis' semi-woodland garden.

Doug Davis in his garden

Doug Davis' beautiful four-acre wooded lot in Kennesaw, Ga., is filled with both exotic and indigenous plants.

In front of the brick house is a garden that's accessed by three portals, each covered by an arch — one made of rustic cedar, another painted white and still another created from bent rebar. These entrances lead past ornamental shrubs — viburnums, flowering quince, spireas, etc. — to a secret garden surrounded by bamboo.

On the other side of the bamboo is a round pool, the start of a long stream Davis built through the woods in front of the house. Bordering the stream are native plants such as mayapple, native pachysandra, woodland phlox and trilliums. Along its banks is a fire pit where the family loves to gather on starry nights.

Along the driveway are more flowering shrubs like giant snowball viburnum (Viburnum macrocephalum), Kerria japonica and Fothergilla major). In the back of the house is a fenced-in vegetable garden where Davis loves growing beans and tomatoes for canning. Beyond this large, rectangular plot is a woodland path that crosses under a covered bridge and winds through a breathtaking grove of native beech trees.

Some of the plants in Davis' garden include:

'Kwanzan' flowering cherry

Japanese flowering cherry (Prunus serrulata 'Kwanzan', a.k.a. 'Sekiyama')

The plant: This popular flowering tree bears clusters of fully double, clear pink flowers in spring. The habit of the Kwanzan cherry is upright and rounded, growing to about 20 or 25 feet high and about as wide at maturity. The new foliage, which follows the showy blossoms, is bronze in color; the leaves become green in summer and turn an orange-bronze in fall. Deciduous. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8.
How to use it: This is a wonderful specimen tree and can be planted where you need shade. Good companion plants are azaleas, viburnums and tulips.
Cultivation: Flowering cherries are not long-lived--usually 25 to 30 years — so plant with that fact in mind. They are fast growing, however. Plant in full sun to partial shade in ordinary soil.
Source: Greenwood Nursery

Allegheny spurge

Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens)

The plant: Native to the eastern half of the U.S., this slow-growing, semi-evergreen groundcover spreads by rhizomes. Hardy to USDA Zone 5 and perhaps warmer parts of Zone 4, this pachysandra develops silvery-brown mottled foliage that's highly ornamental. The plants grow to be six to 10 inches high, with leaves clustered at the top of the shoots in whorls. Fragrant, pinkish-white flowers emerge in spring.
How to use it: This is an excellent groundcover for shady spots. Grow it where you can appreciate the mosaic patterns on the leaves. Good companion plants are woodland phlox, Christmas fern, crested iris and trilliums.
Cultivation: Grow in semi-shaded, woodland conditions. Native pachysandra prefers moist, acidic, organic soil that is well-drained. Avoid heavy clay soils. This pachysandra spreads much more slowly than the well-known Japanese species.
Source: Plant Delights Nursery

Wild sweet William (Phlox divaricata)

Wild sweet William (Phlox divaricata)

The plant: Notched flowers appear atop downy green foliage for a long period in April or May, depending on the zone. The lightly fragrant flowers, which can vary from light to medium blue to slightly lilac-colored, are borne on slender stems from 10 to 15 inches high. The foliage disappears later in the season. Native to the rich, open woods of the eastern U.S. White variations have been discovered in New England, and purple colors with distinct eyes have been found in Mississippi. The plants spread by creeping rhizomes.
How to use it: This is an excellent flower to naturalize on the woodland floor. Grow in combination with spring-flowering bulbs. Use the cut flowers in small spring bouquets with late, narcissus-type daffodils.
Cultivation: Grow in woodland-type soil that is moist and well-drained; plant in partial shade. This phlox will bloom more profusely in a sunny situation, but the flowers will fade more quickly. Dig in spring to divide and share.
Source: Woodlanders

Large fothergilla (Fothergilla major)

Large fothergilla (Fothergilla major)

The plant: Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8, this deciduous, multi-stemmed native shrub produces white, bottlebrush-like flowers that are honey-scented. The bristles of the flowers, which appear on bare branches in spring, are actually stamens, not petals. The shrub occurs in the wild in the moist woodlands of the Allegheny Mountains and southward through Virginia, the Carolinas and west to Alabama. The plant spreads by suckers and grows from six to 10 feet tall with an upright habit. Fall color is outstanding.
How to use it: Grow fothergilla in a woodland garden or naturalistic setting. Plant in masses or in a shrub border.
Cultivation: Grow in moist, leafy acidic soil (this shrub will not tolerate lime) that is rich in humus. Site in part shade to part sun (more shade in South).
Source: Digging Dog Nursery

Shooting star

Shooting star, or American cowslip (Dodecatheon meadia) (Other common names: Indian-chief, roosterhead or pride-of-Ohio)

The plant: In April or May, this native herbaceous perennial produces white, occasionally pink or purple, pointed blooms with highly reflexed petals. The 10- to 20-inch flower spikes rise from basal leaves that are large and oblong (measuring from three to 12 inches long and up to four inches wide). "Shooting star" refers to the configuration of the flower, which points down with petals sweeping upward, much like a cyclamen bloom. Native from Pennsylvania to Georgia and Texas, the flower is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9. This plant is listed as endangered in some states, due in part to over-collecting. It reproduces easily from seed, however.
How to use it: Plant along a trail in a woodland garden. The ideal would be to plant in masses, although the flower may be hard to find and can be difficult to grow. Care needs to be taken in digging in areas around shooting star because the flower goes dormant later in the season.
Cultivation: The flower requires moisture during its growing season and needs dry conditions when it's dormant. Plant only in rich, well-drained soil and partial shade.
Source: Sunshine Farms (E-mail owner Barry Glick from his website and say you read about it on HGTV.com. He'll give you a discount from the normal $5 per plant. To e-mail Sunshine Farms, click on "Request Information" button on the left side of Sunshine Farms' website home page.)

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