March-April 2016 | GARDEN VARIETY




Yard-care expert Heather Spencer of Sposato Landscape shares her secrets for keeping Eastern Shore property as robust and healthy as it is bright and beautiful

Written By: Brian Shane

The healthiest landscapes are those with the greatest variety of plants, but not everyone has the same kind of yard. Where does one begin, to have a balanced backyard landscape?

For the answers, we spoke with Heather Spencer of Sposato Landscape Company in Ocean View. She holds an undergraduate degree in plant science from the University of Delaware and is certified in landscape design by Longwood Gardens.

Spencer says you can put these tried-and-true plants in your yard, and they’ll dependably thrive, based on sun exposure and the time of year. They’re not exotic or non-native, so they’re available at most any garden center.


“Come summertime, people want their yards looking their happiest. For trees, crepe myrtles are extremely popular. You can have blooms in white, purple, magenta, coral or red. That’s nice because you don’t see a lot of trees putting out flowers during the summer — and they love full sun.

“Something else that performs really well down here that everyone uses and are recognizable are knockout roses, which you get pretty much three out of four seasons. They come in red, pink, blush, even white. The red and the pink are the most popular. It’s not a traditional red, like Valentine’s — it’s more like a dark pink. They perform well. They’re heaving bloomers. With additional pruning, you get more blossoms. They’re almost like a blooming shrub.”



“Something that’s actually a little different but performs really well in shade (you’re not necessarily growing it for its flower, yet it has great foliage) is the Japanese fatsia. They hold up really well through the winter and with deer, too. They’re like unsung heroes.

“Impatiens are a good-old standby for shady situations. They’ve come out with some new varieties. There’s one called a New Guinea, which you can find at any local garden center.”



“For the fall, pansies are our No. 1 annual by far. It’s funny how people will use the word pansy in a derogatory form, but pansies are really tough little plants. They get wind, rain and snow, yet they come back really strong. They look really great for spring. Pansies don’t like the heat, but they do survive through wintertime, and they come in
a variety of colors.

“For full sun, in drought-tolerant areas, vinca is an awesome one to choose, because you have so many colors. They range from white, pink, red, bluish and purple. They’re like the opposite of the pansy: They love the heat and full sun.”


“Nepeta does really well here at the beach. Its common name is catmint.
It has a bluish-green foliage and a small purple flower. It blooms through the summer. 

“Another one I really love that definitely performs at the beach is called gaura. That comes either pink or white. It has a very wispy look to it, because the flowers are on top of small, spiky stems.

“Another good perennial for shade are hostas — except they’re like cotton candy for deer! You can get them in different sizes, with big leaves or tiny leaves.”


“People always associate ornamental grasses with the beach, and there’s a wide variety of those, as well — size, branching habit, whether they’re upright and narrow or bushy and wide. You can get them in different heights. People don’t put dune grass in their yards, but there are some ornamental grasses you can buy that mimic the look. Dwarf Fountain Grass is one. Another one I really like is Mexican Feather Grass.”



“Something to consider in winter landscapes are Red Twig Dogwoods. The naked stems and branches are a brilliant red. It’s a really nice contrast to everything that’s gone dormant. They’ll have leaves in the wintertime.

“A large evergreen that does well throughout the weather is a Hollywood Juniper. They can tolerate the extreme climate we have down here, between salt, pollen, sun and wind. They’re very free-form and abstract in their branching. I highly recommend one if someone’s looking for an evergreen.”


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