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A Few Suitable Shrub Suggestions Needed

Posted by
judy-hebe 8b
(gw:judy-hebe) on
Mon, Oct 23, 06 at 16:47

I'm not truly a professional gardener, more a semi-prof, as I mostly do this for friends & charge very little, if anything, depending on circumstances. So my experience will be far more limited than most /good/ professionals.

I've been asked by my acupuncturist for help. I'd like to know what sort of shrubs or small trees (that can be pruned to maintain shape & size) would be good for 3 huge planters for a certain place. Normally, I wouldn't have any trouble advising, but the location makes it trickier.

The containers are on an open exposed lower part of the roof of the first story of a building that houses a number of medical businesses. It faces the southeast so is exposed to lots of hot summer sun (& heat/sun reflection from surrounding area) but also because of the elevation one floor from the sidewalk, is also exposed to any colder winds in winter. I'm looking into cultivars of native shrubs that grow in more mountainous areas of the Pacific Northwest.

The current gardener/landscaper isn't good & does little regular watering & when he does, he overdoes it without proper means of drainage. I'm going to try to see if I can look after the container grown plants & let him look after inground plantings.

Although the containers are huge, I still think it likely that being container grown, the USDA zone can be dropped by 1 or 2 even, from 8b to 7 or even 6b. Previously, there were 3 large Thuja planted but they're as dead as doorknobs now. I think the hot summer sun with little water did them in.

I was looking for something that would be more ornamental, flower in season, & hopefully, would still look attractive with bark or shape interest in winter. I also thought it worth doing some underplantings in the soil around to spruce the look during warmer weather.

Our high summer temperatures are in the 80s (hotter where the planters are) & we only get a couple snowfalls a winter. Mostly, we get lots of cold winter rain but occasional cold snaps with lows in the low 20s. Once in a while, a winter will have freezing rain with ice on branches for a few days.

I have a number of ideas so was hoping if others can suggest some, between my ideas & yours, I can find a couple of shrubs offered locally.

Thank you for all help!


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RE: A Few Suitable Shrub Suggestions Needed

There is little need to worry too much about dropping zones for most things you may choose. That type of location tends to accumulate a lot of reflected heat, even in winter, and a similar situation (downtown Seattle, rooftop deck, southwestern exposure) sees even zonal geraniums and some annuals overwintering without protection.

I'd hesitate to suggest many natives, specially higher elevation ones, as they will not be well suited to this severe, open exposure and intense, reflected summer heat. A good number of dwarf conifers will work very well, although perhaps not as ornamental as you might like. Also dwarf ceanothus ('Vandenberg'), abelia, nandina, ornamental grasses, New Zealand flax and hebes should be suitable. On that same Seattle rooftop are growing an assortment of small Japanese and several vine maples, a 'Spaan's Dwarf' shore pine, a "hedge" of arborvitaes, Nandina 'Gulf Stream', bamboo, Pittosporum tobira, euphorbias, lavender, rosemary, sedums, various phormiums and hebes and an assortment of seasonal annuals. Also a great location for various herbs and one of the best crops of tomatoes I've ever seen!

I'd suggest you rig up a drip system on a timer for watering unless daily attention can be provided in the summer.


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