10 Problem-Solving Plants by

Issue 13 · Rite of Spring · March 28, 2012

10 Problem-Solving Plants

Issue 13 · Rite of Spring · March 28, 2012

Every gardener has a problem. Yours may be a deep pool of shade where nothing blooms. Or a slope that washes away after every heavy rain. Or an old oak tree with roots that have spread, like varicose veins. Mine is deer.

At night, I lie awake and imagine I hear incessant chomping. After they finish off the roses, what will the deer do next—send out for pizza?

"I'm a little obsessed," I admitted the other day to Kathleen Brenzel, the editor of The New Sunset Western Garden Book, the encyclopedic ninth edition of a guide that gardeners in the western United States have revered since its earliest incarnation as a pamphlet, in 1932.

"If deer are eating everything you own, try something they don't like," Brenzel said. "There are some suggestions in the book."

So there are. In fact, in addition to a list of nearly 250 plants deer dislike to eat, Sunset's new 768-page edition devotes a full 30 pages to plants that solve a variety of specific problems in the garden. They're not the latest hybrids, but rather basic plants that are useful in temperate climates to both novices (who may find them new) and to experienced gardeners (who may be happy for any distraction from that insatiable chomping sound). Here's are some old friends Sunset recommends.

Saucer Magnolia

Above: Thwart the deer. It is a truly bizarre thing about deer that they shy from eating magnolias, because the buds on Magnolia x. soulangeana look delicious even to me. A Saucer Magnolia will grow as tall as 25 feet; it's a lovely tree to anchor a garden; $12 through the Arbor Day Foundation. Image via Saipua.

Lady's Mantle

Above: Brighten a shady spot. Lady's Mantle has a nice lobed leaf, forms compact mounds, and sends out stalks of yellow blooms that are "attractive as a frothy mass," according to Sunset; $6.29 at Broadway Gardens. Pair Alchemilla mollis with Hosta beneath leggy shrubs. Photograph by Chris Waits via Flickr.

Hosta 'Saint Paul'

Above: Cover a shady corner without spending a fortune. Clumps of Hosta will send up spikes of flowers each summer and spread quickly; split the roots with a sharp spade to double the coverage. Hosta 'Saint Paul'; $11.99 through Amazon. Image via Sunset.

Rosa 'Molineux'

Above: Anchor a flowerbed with a rose that blooms all summer. Other flowers come and go; a shrub like Rosa 'Molineux' has a long blooming season and is disease-resistant; $23.95 at David Austin Roses. Photograph by Jim W. via Flickr.

Atlanta Heliotrope Plant

Above: Avoid costly annuals with a perfumed perennial. Although a mature Heliotropium arborescens may achieve a height of 4 feet, according to Sunset, Heliotrope's greatest value is as a fragrant bedding plant; $3.50 at Garden Harvest Supply. Image via Wood Elf Gardener.

Buxus Sempervirens

Above: Block the neighbors. Or create structure amid the chaos. Even if the rest of your garden has clumps of everything you love plopped willy-nilly in the dirt next to each other, a boxwood hedge will lend an instant air of order and propriety. Buxus sempervirens, otherwise known as common boxwood, will achieve heights of up to 20 feet, if you crave privacy; $17.95 for 1-gallon-container plants at Amazon. Image via Sunset.

Symphoricarpos Coral Berry

Above: Stop erosion on a slope. Snowberry will grow happily on a steep hillside and will flower in spring or early summer; $16.99 from ShrubSource. Image via Old Blue Crow.

Geraniaceae 'Johnson's Blue'

Above: Consider a groundcover that won't gobble up space. Such cranesbills as Geraniaceae 'Johnson's Blue,' will spread via rhizomes through the garden, but always politely; $7 at Geraniaceae.com. You need not fear they will choke everything in their path. Image via Sunset.

Vinca Minor

Above: Cover a bare spot under a tree. Periwinkle will thrive where lesser groundcovers fail. Don't waste it on a sunny spot; turn it loose in shade under that old oak in the corner of the backyard. As a groundcover, Vinca Minor is typically sold in bulk; 50 plants for $29.95 at Greenwood Nursery. Image via Sunset.

Waxleaf Privet

Above: Withstand wind. Privet doesn't get enough credit. Although often dismissed as a common hedge shrub, it also deserves credit for its ability to protect more tender garden plants from being damaged by high winds. Waxleaf Privet in a 5-gallon container; $44.98 at Amazon. Image by Mary Richmond via Flickr.

The New Sunset Western Garden Book

Above: The ninth edition of Sunset's guide, The New Sunset Western Garden Book is the first to feature color photos of thousands of plants; $20.80 at Amazon.



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