Global warming or just better math? New to 2012, Chicago city proper has moved hardiness zones from 5b to 6a and the western suburbs are solidly a 5b zone instead of 5a. The change is due to better data collection that bases the zones on a wider range of years studied. What does it mean for plant connoisseurs and landscapers alike? It means we can try some fun new things, but it doesn’t come without consequences. The temperatures in certain years can still dip down to zone 4 temps that can kill plants on the “fringe”. Here are my favorite fringe plants for protected areas. Want to live dangerously? Locate these plants in areas with surrounding trees, solid fences, south-facing walls, and under overhangs or alcoves.
1. Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’-Bloodgood Japanese Maple is the most hardy of the japanese maples and also a larger specimen. There are other varieties, some that are smaller with more ferny-like leaves. They are generally small trees with purple leaves, but can be green in color as well. They can sometimes lose whole limbs from late frosts and harsh winters if not properly protected.
2. Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’- Daphne
This is one I have only seen growing decent in one clients’ yard and her father happened to be a nurseryman. This is the type of plant that is unique and worth trying if you are a gardener type that doesn’t mind a failure every now and then. It is worth it for the unique variegated foliage, fragrance and interesting texture. As will be a consistent theme for any broadleaf evergreen, winter winds can take moisture out of the leaves, which can take away from attractiveness.
3. Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’-Forest Pansy Redbud
This redbud has all the same characteristics as the parent, but has purple leaves. It would be best under the story of other trees. The leaves can get burned in very sunny locations.
4. Fagus sylvatica ‘Roseo-marginata’-Tricolored Beech
The EverGreen Landscape office inherited a specimen planted near the main entrance. If it were not for the barn near by, this would not be a great location for the Tricolored Beech, especially as it is out in the open. Planted on the north side of the barn, it gets enough protection from harsh summer suns, and protection in the winter. The variegated leaves make it very unique.
5. Ilex x meservea ‘China Girl’ and ‘China Boy’
For anyone looking for a shrub that truly looks like a holly shrub, this is one of the best bets for harsh northern winters. The leaves often get burned by winter winds which drag moisture from the leaves. Avoid south exposure, even in protected areas.