Darrin Duling, Director of Westchester Community College's Native Plant Center in Purchase, NY, Lists Westchester County's Most Common Shrubs and Plants

Some of the most stunning shrubs have Westchester County roots.



Like true locavorians, we prefer our shrubs to be homegrown. Darrin Duling, director of The Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College (914-606-7870; nativeplantcenter.org), helped us identify the county’s most common shrubs.

 

Mountain Laurel
(Kalmia latifolia)
Typical Height: 6 to 20 feet
One of the most beautiful flowering shrubs in the world, the mountain laurel shows off, come May, with exquisite clusters of pink and white flowers that resemble wedding-cake decorations.

Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla ionicera)
Typical Height: 3 feet
It might be called a dwarf (which is not very PC), but
this native can be quite proud
of its rich yellow, fragrant
flowers (in June to July), which hummingbirds just love. This honeysuckle will thrive in dry conditions in sun or shade.

Wild Hydrangea
(Hydrangea arborescens)
Typical Height: 3 to 8 feet
Large, ball-shaped, white flower clusters add cool elegance to the summer garden and make handsome dried arrangements. There are quite a few cultivated varieties, with a newly introduced pink-flowered form that is taking the garden world by storm.

Sweet Pepperbush
(Clethra alnifolia)
Typical Height: 3 to 7 feet
Honey-scented spires of white flowers perfume late-summer gardens, closely followed by ornamental seed capsules that resemble peppercorns, ergo the name. The pepperbush stands upright and has lots of branches. Foliage turns a clear yellow color in autumn.

Nannyberry
(Viburnum lentago)
Typical Height: 15 to 30 feet
True to its name, this native bush produces berries—black, shiny ones that birds just adore. We do, too—not to mention the lovely purple-red autumn leaves. But, before then, the shrub’s creamy white flowers ain’t bad, either. And, if it’s privacy you’re seeking, the nannyberry will assume tree proportions if left un-pruned.

Red Chokeberry
(Aronia arbutifolia)
Typical Height: 12 feet
Often confused with the shadbush, red chokeberry is generally much smaller in stature. This member of the rose family forms a multi-stemmed, deciduous, upright shrub that is covered with clusters of small, white flowers in April to May. Birds love the red fruit that follows the flowers. Foliage turns bright red-orange in autumn.

Inkberry (Ilex glabra)
Typical Height: 3 to 6 feet
A handsome, fine-textured evergreen holly that is fast-growing and dependably sturdy, inkberry is often used as a native alternative to boxwood. Like all hollies, male and female flowers are produced on separate plants, so both are needed for the girls to produce their shiny, black berries.
 

Roseshell Azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum)
Typical Height: 6 to 9 feet
 In late April or early May, you see these just about everywhere. They are easy to grow and their flowers not only look brilliant but give off a lovely scent. And, for good measure, come fall, the azalea’s leaves turn brilliant shades of red and gold.

Rosebay Rhododendron
(Rhododendron maximum)
Typical Height: 12 to 30 feet
Our native evergreen rhododendron has large, leathery leaves and huge bouquets of purplish-pink to white flowers that appear in late spring and early summer. This bold, wide-spreading shrub eventually
can reach tree-like proportions,
and may be trimmed to expose picturesque gnarled trunks. It
is a very striking choice for hedging and screening.

Spicebush
(Lindera benzoin)
Typical Height: 15 feet
Not unlike forsythia—with one exception: forsythia’s not native. One of our earliest-flowering native shrubs, blooming in late winter, its branches are adorned with sweet-smelling clusters of tiny yellow flowers. Female plants produce bright, scarlet berries in autumn. (Be sure to plant both male and females to ensure fruiting.)

Bearberry
(Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Typical Height: 4 to 6 inches
A relative of blueberries and rhododendrons, bearberry is a ground-hugging, evergreen shrub that forms tight carpets of small, glossy leaves. Tiny white flowers appear in April to May, followed by red berries. Better like it, though: this is a tough plant that thrives, even in dry conditions; it can be found growing in sand dunes in the wild.

Northern Bayberry
(Morella pensylvanica)
Typical Height: 10 to 20 feet
This is quite possibly one
of our most adaptable native shrubs, growing in sun, shade, dry, and wet areas—and it is also (hurrah!) deer-resistant. It grows quickly, having smooth, gray bark and semi-evergreen leaves that are fragrant when crushed. It produces small, waxy, blue-gray berries that were used in Colonial times to scent candles.