Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Lawn to Woodland Shrubs

a swath of Bottlebrush Buckeye in with long white fluffy blooms

Hello fellow readers; a beautiful assortment of plants can serve as transition shrubs from the lawn to woodland that can help hide unsightly views.

Weeds are misplaced plants.

Diane of Knowlton asked for tips to “tame her jungle,” which sounds like weeds could be her dilemma. Weeds are misplaced plants – not “a Mary original” definition but frequently used to justify my naturalized landscape, which seems much better than a weedy landscape. My motto is to keep the volunteers you like and remove the ones you don’t. However, there is the issue of invasive species, which is an exception to the rule.

Shrubs can provide a pleasing buffer from lawn to woods.

We live in a beautiful part of the country, so rather than meddling with Mother Nature, I suggest creating a transition from your lawn to natural areas such as bogs, fields, or woodlands. Planting transition shrubs between your lawn and native areas provides a pleasing buffer and can hide “uglies” such as downed trees and unsightly neighbor yard art or brush piles.

One of my favorite transition shrubs is Aesculus parviflora /Bottlebrush Buckeye reaching 8-12′ in height, and spread is excellent for massing, providing a wave of texture across the landscape. Full shade to full sun, although best with some shade hence ideal as a woodland buffer, this flexible fellow tolerates flooding and moderate drought and is deer resistant to boot. It flowers in June through July with showy white flowers that look like bottle brushes, hence its common name. Their flowers give way to glossy inedible, pear-shaped nuts (buckeyes) encased in husks.

bottlebrush buckeye busting in flower that looks like hundrends of white bottle brushes

Bottlebrush Buckeye / Aesculus parviflora

 Sambucus nigra ‘Eva,’ or other purple leaf varieties of Elderberry, is another favorite with musky-smelling flowers followed by reddish-black fall berries attractive to birds. Their fruits are yummy in jams, jellies, and pie fillings, though not as flavorful as the American elderberry /Sambucus canadensis.

Then there is Clethra alnifolia, commonly called Summersweet, a native deciduous shrub that flowers for about 4-6 weeks in July and August, and butterflies and bees adore them. Why not have a heavenly-smelling garden while taming your jungle?

Garden Dilemmas? (and now on your favorite Podcast App.)

Updated  July 25, 2020

a man in a straw hat and red shirt next to a bottlebrush buckeye along a woodland

Roger of Blairstown, NJ, with his newly-installed Aesculous parviflora

Links to Lawn to Woodland Shrubs: Aesculus parviflora, Sambucus nigra ‘Eva,’ Clethra alnifolia
Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.