Landscape Design for Backyard Specimen Bush or Tree

Part of the You Can Learn Landscaping and Gardening series.
By Ken Brown
May 28, 2008

This Landscape Design for a Specimen Bush or Tree is designed to highlight that tree or bush in your backyard that you love. It can be a Star Magnolia, a Crimson King Maple, a slow growing spruce, a Flowering Crabapple Tree or even a Burning Bush.

This landscape design will be easy to maintain. It works best in partial shade to partial sun. The major perennials in this design are just two robust perennials. One is the Hydrangea and the other is the Astilbe. It is very simple but it is designed add character to your specimen plant. These perennials should not over shadow the specimen plant you already own, but should add interest and draw additional attention to the specimen plant.

Enhance Your Specimen Plant

The Hydrangea will add green in the spring and then huge balls of flowers will tower over the plant. The Hydrangea flowers in the summer after a lot of other plant's flowers are spent. There are different varieties of Hydrangeas. The variety, Panicle Hydrangea, produces pyramid shaped flowers. The Endless Summer Hydrangea, known as Hydrangea macrophylla 'E.S.', has bluish, purple or pink balled shaped flowers. Another popular variety is the Annabelle or Hydrangea arborescens. This version produces large balls of flowers up to 10 inches in diameter.

The next recommended plant is the Astilbe. The astilbe is a plant with delicate feathery flowers. The astilbe prefers shade, but will grow in sunshine. They do not put up with hot, dry weather. They prefer moist shady spots in your garden.

They come in a variety of colors and styles with colors of pink, red, magenta, cream and white. The astilbe will bloom in June and July. If the plant drys out in hot weather then the flowering will be over for the summer. For this Specimen Bush landscape design I recommend the following perennials.

Use These Perennials for the Specimen Landscape Design

A photo of a Astilbe Perennial to be used in the Landscape Design for Specimen Bushes.
The Astilbe comes in a variety of colors that will enhance your specimen plant.
You can plant five Astilbes. Place Astilbe in partial shade where the plant will receive some sun. Too much sun and dryness will produce a poorly grown plant with flowers dying early in the season. Keep soil moist and well drained for best results. The astilbe produces delicate leaves and feathery flowers.
A photo of an Hydrangea to be used in this landscape designs.
Do you like huge blooms of flowers? You can plant the Hydrangea in this specimen garden.
Next, you should plant three Hydrangea. The Hydrangeas offer many opportunities to showcase their beauty. You can include them into a border, as speciman plants or along a fence line as shrubs. Many people will cut the flower while blooming for beauty in the home or office.
This landscape design doesn't require a large area. I recommend you draw a semi-circle of about 10 feet radius in front of the specimen plant. Then place the 3 Hydrangeas in the section closest to the specimen plant and then outline all around the border with the Astilbes. Be sure and leave plenty of room for the Hydrangeas to grow. Space them appropriately.

Recommended Flowers for the Speciman Plant Landscape Design

Perennial Quantity Interest Color
Astilbe 5 Summer - Fall pink, red, magenta, cream and white
Hydrangea 3 Summer - Fall White, blue

The landscape design for specimen plants showcases the specimen bush while adding color and interest with the Astilbe and Hydrangea perennials.
This is a section of the landscape design for specimen plants. You can see the specimen spruce on the left, with an Astilbe and Hydrangea adding color.

The plot shows how to position the plants included in the Specimen Landscape Design
This is plot of the landscape design for specimen plants. The speciman plant is the anchor, with 5 Astilbes and 3 Hydrangeas adding color.

Specimen Plant Landscape Design

If you already have a specimen plant in your yard then just add these additional perennials to the specimen bush. They will enhance the specimen plant. If you don't already have a specimen plant then you can choose from many different choices. I recommend any of the following as a nice addition to this design.

I like a slow growing spruce. Something that only grows an inch a year. Otherwise it will quickly overtake the area. A flowering crabapple makes a nice addition because it will flower in early spring before the other perennials really get going. A Burning Bush will make a nice backdrop of red during the fall while the white hydrangeas pop out in beauty. Or, choose your favorite specimen plant.

The Landscape Design for Specimen Plants is easy to maintain with just an inch of water per week. You can trim the Hydrangeas in the fall when the flowers fade. Or wait until spring if you want to enjoy the spent flowers over winter. I support my Hydrangeas with some green fencing around the plant. Don't worry, the plants grow so well you won't see the fencing at all.

The Astilbe you can trim in late fall or early spring. After a few years you can divide the Astilbe in early spring. Remove the entire clump, cut into smaller clumps and then replant. Remember the different cultivars you have when replanting.

I hope you enjoy this design and share with us in the comments below your thoughts on this landscape design for Specimen Bushes.

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