Architectural Garden Plants
- Sea holly has distinctive blue flowers.Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
Architectural plants give your garden a dominant structure, which provides the focal point for the rest of your planting design. Size, unusual leaf shape and strong colors are among the characteristics gardeners look for when choosing an architectural plant. Gardeners also use architectural plants to complement physical features like gazebos, creeks and landscaped sitting areas.
- With its spiky gray-green leaves and blue thistlelike blooms, the sea holly creates a strong garden focal point. For maximum impact, choose one of the larger cultivars such as Eryngium yuccafolium, which can attain a height of 4 feet and produces blue blooms in July and August. Hardy to USDA zone 5, sea holly originates from Iran and the Caucasus and thrives best in full sun. Keep its soil moist for best results, although once established, it does have drought tolerance thanks to its deep taproot. The taproot makes sea holly difficult to move, so plan carefully before you choose a planting spot.
- The tall, woody stems and green foliage of bamboo, a type of grass, make it a strong choice as an architectural plant. The University of Maryland Cooperative Extension points out that there are two basic kinds of bamboo, spreading and clumping. It warns that spreading bamboo can be very invasive in domestic gardens and recommends creating a 3-foot-deep barrier around the plant. Clumping bamboo is much easier to control. Bamboo types come in a huge range of heights, from 12 inches to 60 feet, so choose one that will fit in with your garden. Bamboo grows happily in most soils, as long as they're not waterlogged, and most varieties favor full sun.
- The tree fern, which has the botanical name Dicksonia antarctica, is a great choice for a shady garden, since they thrive with little sunlight. Specimens can grow to a height of 50 feet, although this takes decades, as they only grow about 1 inch each year. Tree ferns feature a thick, fibrous trunk topped by fern fronds up to 6 feet long, which make for an eye-catching and exotic garden feature. Fern trees need a damp environment; make sure neither the trunk nor the crown dry out. The fern tree survives all but the hardest frosts. Even so, it is wise in colder regions to give it winter protection by stuffing the crown with straw and wrapping the trunk in plastic sheeting.