The traditional New England garden is filled with a diversity of deciduous plants, shrubs and trees, making for a regal and colorful display. The choices for plants in this part of the country are crucial, as the New England winter extends well into March, and requires an early-blooming plant if the garden is to turn out by early May or late April. What's more, the topography of New England means that some areas will have poor-draining, wet soil, others will have well-draining dry soil, and still others will contain soil that's prone to drought.
Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) is a high-sunlight shrub that acts as a good groundcover. It has bell-shaped white flowers, tiny red berries, red bark and thick foliage that rarely grows over 1 foot high. The plant attracts hummingbirds. Sweet fern (Comptonia peregrine) is a tall fern that does well in the shade of New England Jack pine. The leaves are elongated, with soft serrations that grow around a central head, not unlike oregano in appearance. Its spores produce a sweet scent that has been known to attract butterflies and was, in the past, used to treat poison ivy rashes. Pasture juniper (Juniperus communis) is an evergreen shrub with leaves similar to pine needles arrayed low across the ground, often with branches sharp angles from one another. It can withstand near-arctic temperatures and full sunlight.
Chokeberry (Aronia) is a genus of shrubs native to the eastern coastline with extremely dark pigmentation that are cultivated ornamentally. They produce clusters of tiny white flowers amongst their yellowish leaves. The edible berries are used in jams and wines, and have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants ever discovered. Flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum) is an evergreen normally found in the Appalachian mountain range. It produces an open-trussed, trumpet-like flower roughly the size of a fist in orange, yellow or red. The plants can grow over 6 feet in height, and provide an attractive addition to a New England garden.
Well-Draining Soil Plants
New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus) is a fast-maturing perennial that splits on the ground and comes up as a series of fleshy stalks as high as 3 feet. It has pale, palm-like leaves. The upper leaves produce series of mushroom-like white flowers in clusters at the end of long stalks. Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) is an upward-turning shrub that can grow in a cluster up to 9 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter. It has a tri-lead pattern similar to clover with blood-red flowers that cover the entire plant from end to end in late spring. The berries it produces in hanging clusters draw birds.