Planting Design Choices for Year-Round Interest

ASLA 2017 Professional General Design Honor Award. Merging Culture and Ecology at The North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC. Surface 678 / image: Art Howard

With winter weather fast approaching, December is a good time to take a look back at ASLA’s Professional Practice Network (PPN) members’ favorite plants to add interest in all seasons. Highlighted below are responses that appeared more than once. While some members noted that their answer depended on the location, many others had a tough time picking just one answer:

“Don’t have a single favorite plant. Plants belong in communities.”

“I love all plants—they all have their place. No favorites.”

“The one that catches my eye on a walk on any day.”

“Trees that evoke an emotional response or help build memories.”

Here are a few ways our members keep their planting designs visually engaging throughout the year. The most popular picks, each mentioned five or more times:

  • Dogwoods, including Red Twig, Red Osier, and June Snow™
  • Oakleaf Hydrangea
  • Amelanchier (Serviceberry), including Shadblow and Autumn Brilliance
  • Ornamental grasses, including Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem), Muhlenbergia capillaris, and Muhlenbergia lindheimeri

ASLA 2017 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. Proving Grounds – A 20-Year Education in American Horticulture, Cambridge, MA. Reed Hilderbrand LLC Landscape Architecture / image: Reed Hilderbrand

Three to four mentions:

  • Crape myrtle
  • Viburnums
  • Ilex (Holly), including Ilex verticillata (Winterberry) and Ilex vomitoria
  • Acer palmatum (Japanese maple)
  • Acer griseum (Paperbark maple)
ASLA 2017 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. Northeast Harbor, a Restoration on Mount Desert Island, ME. Stephen Stimson Associates / image: Stephen Stimson, FASLA

Appeared twice:

  • Arbutus, including Arbutus texana and Arbutus unedo
  • Crab apples
  • Nandina domestica
  • Stewartia, including Stewartia japonica and Stewartia pseudocamellia
  • White oak
ASLA 2016 Professional Residential Design Award of Excellence. DBX Ranch: A Transformation Brings Forth a New Livable Landscape, Pitkin County, CO. Design Workshop, Inc. / image: D.A. Horchner / Design Workshop, Inc.

Here are a few other plantings that add year-round interest from PPN members’ responses:

“All varieties of ivy family (Araliaceae).”

Arbutus texana but only in the wild!”

Cornus in Pacific Northwest; Lagerstroemia in southern CA.”

“Depending on the climate, deep blue evergreens or red barberry.”

ASLA 2017 Professional Residential Design Honor Award. Telegraph Hill Residence, San Francisco, CA. Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture / image: Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture


“In Southern CA—Centuryplant (Agave americana). In the midwest—Paperbark Maple.”

Itea virginica—any variety. Spring flower, fall color, nice habit, easy to maintain.”

Stewartia pseudocamellia—I love this small Asian tree even though I usually specify native plants.”

ASLA 2017 Professional General Design Award of Excellence. Klyde Warren Park – Bridging the Gap in Downtown Dallas, TX. OJB Landscape Architecture / image: Marion Brenner Photography

At the start of 2015, a questionnaire was sent out to members of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs). The theme: creativity and inspired design. As you can imagine, responses were varied, and included many insightful comments and suggestions. Synopses of the survey results were originally shared in LAND over the course of 2015, and we are now re-posting this information here on The Field. For the latest updates on the results of the annual PPN Survey, see LAND’s PPN News section.

One thought on “Planting Design Choices for Year-Round Interest

  1. Becca Holton March 19, 2018 / 1:28 pm

    I appreciated that you listed ways your members keep their planting designs visually engaging throughout the year. My property could use some changes. This post gave me an idea of the way I want the landscape to look.

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