Home & Garden

Kennewick woman opts for uncommon varieties of typical garden plants

Could your landscaping use an upgrade?

Break out of the petunia, arborvitae and birch rut so many homeowners are stuck in.

Drive around, visit the nurseries, look for something different -- something you don't see in every yard, in every neighborhood.

That's advice from longtime gardener Trude McMonagle of Kennewick. She's also the horticulturist at Meadow Springs Country Club.

"There are lots of different plants people can grow here besides geraniums and petunias. You just have to remember there's more than one kind of everything," she said.

Beech trees for example. The most commonly planted is the European which has smooth gray bark and glossy green leaves. But that's just one of the 16 listed in Sunset's Western Garden Book.

McMonagle has a beech but its leaves are variegated -- the dark green leaves are edged in bright pink.

It's not a common variety, and you'll need to ask for it at a nursery, she said.

Other uncommon plants you'll find in McMonagle's garden are tree and fern leaf peonies. They are spring bloomers so their flowers are long gone. But it's well worth planting now to enjoy the spectacular show next year.

Tree peonies are naturally a small, woody stemmed bush. But pruning will produce a more tree-like appearance and some -- like McMonagle's -- grow that way naturally.

Her tree peony produces enormous papery blooms, six to eight inches diameter, but just a few.

"They're so big and heavy they don't always survive our windy springs. But normally they'll last a week or more," she said.

Bushier tree peonies generally produce more blooms, McMonagle counted more than 62 on one plant, but they're smaller.

Tree peonies are slow growing, long lived plants, topping out around 3-5 feet.

Fernleaf peonies are herbaceous, they die back to the ground in the winter and put out new shoots from the roots in the spring. They're smaller, 18- to 30-inches tall and wide, with finely cut dark green leaves.

"You'll have to look for these peonies, they're expensive and uncommon, but available," McMonagle said.

So as you shop for new flowers, shrubs and trees, keep an open mind.

Plant companies are beginning to diversify, developing more plants suitable to the drier, eastern side of the Cascades and they're available in the Mid-Columbia, she said.

"You just need to look and be willing to try something new," McMonagle said.

* Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com.