Imagine an infrastructure featuring the large, flexible leaves of an oakleaf hydrangea, the tiny, shiny foliage of boxwoods and the long, languid needles of a Scotch pine. The trick is to think long-term, giving each plant enough room to grow over time.
“You should not have to whack the heck out of plants every year,” Tauber says.
Hardy hostas thrive in the shade and return reliably, year after year. He likes to group them in contrasting colors of pale yellow-green, steel blue and variegated green-and-cream. Sedum is a perennial pleaser, evolving from spring green to autumnal red.
“Its fleshy leaves look great all summer long, then it blooms in fall in a great last hurrah,” he says.
Hybrids were developed to bring out the best in plants, Tauber says. For example, blight is killing American dogwoods throughout the Northeast. But Chinese dogwood, a hybrid, is resistant to disease.
“A native rhododendron is spindly, with not much of a flower,” he says. “The hybrid has large, shiny leaves and full flowers.”
Valerie Cordrey of East Coast Garden Center in Millsboro is excited about recently developed hybrids that offer an evolving kaleidoscope of color. The Bloomerang, a lilac hybrid, keeps flowers and fragrance coming until frost. Endless Summer, a reblooming hydrangea, provides a procession of blossoms that are beautiful in bouquets. She is especially sweet on a variety called Blushing Bride.
“It starts out white, turns pink and then crimson,” she says.