PNW Plant Combination Using Low Maintenance Shrubs

This plant combination relies on low-maintenance shrubs to provide year-round enjoyment with minimal fuss. This palette of plants is deceptively simple at first look. But rest assured, these eight plants provide a nice variety in terms of foliage texture, plant shape, and size.

Three evergreen plants create a solid, all-season structure. The inclusion of slow-growing, evergreen shrubs—naturally low-maintenance—is one of the reasons this plant combination is so easy-going. Together with the fern, they create an all-season frame for the plants with more seasonal variation. The plum yew (Cephalotaxus h. 'Korean Gold') is an evergreen shrub/conifer with a narrow, upright growth habit. It can be used as a hedge or to create a backdrop for the other plants in this scheme. The dwarf hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis o. 'Dainty Doll') is a delightful accent for near the front of the border. It is exceptionally compact and has an interesting foliage texture that suggest swirls and waves. It's a slow-grower and is the epitome of excellence in terms of low-maintenance shrubs.

These evergreen shrubs coupled with the semi-evergreen autumn fern, frame deciduous plants that ebb, flow, evolve and charge throughout the year.

The Autumn Moon maple is a top-shelf maple for small gardens. It is relatively slow-growing and it maintains a compact habit that isn't likely to outgrow an urban garden over time. Its emerging, bronze-tinged foliage becomes more golden in summer, and as the season winds down develops good fall color. Blooms further enliven the scene. The panicle hydrangea blooms over a very long period; it starts in early summer and remains attractive until late fall. The flowers start out as tight clusters of ivory and change through the season to blush, then pink, and ultimately to dark magenta/pink by fall. The Cinnamon Bear Rhododendron is decorated by light-colored clusters of flowers in spring. Though, to be honest, the new foliage with its bronze-y indumentum is the most intriguing feature of the rhododendron.

All in all, there is a bronze-y gold undertone that knits the overall scene together. The fresh foliage edged in red on the maple; the emerging fronds of the autumn fern; the fuzzy indumentum of the rhododendron; and the golden yellow tips of the new foliage on the plum yew—these moments create a cohesive story that unfolds through the season.

Growing Conditions

Zone: 6, 7, 8
Exposure: Part Sun, Filtered Sun, Morning Sun, Open Shade, Part Shade
Water Needs: Regular / Even

Design Considerations

Style: City and Courtyard, Northwest Eclectic, Woodland
Features: Fabulous Foliage, Four Season Appeal, Low Maintenance, Varied Foliage, Texture, and Form, Warm Colors, Winter Interest, Harmonious Colors
Focus: Curb Appeal, Efficient Use of Space, Mixed Border, Pleasing Seasonal Flow, Small Space, Goofproof Maintenance, Privacy and Screening, Year-round Interest
Seasons of Interest: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, Pleasing Seasonal Changes, Year-round Interest

Care and Maintenance

Maintenance Level: low
Maintenance Tasks: Once-a-Year Care, Landscape Crew Friendly

Plants In this Combo