Specimen Plants – How to Improve your Landscape Investment

Can you really improve your landscape with a single specimen plant? Yes, you can. But you must choose wisely or you will continue the blandness or chaos outside your front door!

An Investment that needs Critical Thinking

Investments – you know your home is an investment. Do you realize that your landscape goes a long way to support your home? It is an investment all by itself. The standard update formula we use is 10-20 years – that is how long your landscape works before we need updates. Updates can be major or minor. But you can make it better by adding a specimen.

If you are like most homeowners, you work in your yard: mulch plants, rake leaves, mow lawn, add plants, prune and fertilize. Your yard is the first thing we see when we drive by or come for a visit. Have you created a garden worthy of a second look? I often tell my students that I don’t need an invitation to do a ‘drive-by’ and that first impression will be hard to replace.

Specimen Plant

What is a Specimen Plant?

So, you may have a yard filled with plants you have collected or a landscape someone designed. Makes no difference, because your yard needs a specimen plant. What is a specimen? It is a plant much different from the others in your yard, and maybe in your neighborhood. It is something that stands out from everything else, setting your landscape apart from the others. Your landscape (or yard or garden, if you prefer) should not be like that of the neighbors. There should be something different, something that stands out from the rest of the plants.

A specimen plant is a living focal point in your garden. Some yards have too many, some do not have one at all. And why is it important to your landscape? It creates appeal rather than monotony. If chosen wisely, it can coordinate the garden, contrast with other textures and colors and provide interest.

So, how do you choose a specimen plant? It has to pass the following tests:

1 – Must be different – in shape, texture, color, form, one-of-a-kind

2 – Must be low maintenance

3 – Must look good all times – all-season interest, all year long

In the photo below, the Colorado Blue Spruce breaks the monotony of the all the green. It is different in the landscape because it’s color is in direct contrast with the gold and green surrounding it, making it become more of an accent. It’s needle size, tree form, shape and color all combine to make it a good example of a specimen in this landscape.

The yellow juniper helps to create a ground cover for the blue.

So, what’s next?

You can easily get a better return on your landscape investment by using a specimen plant. Take a good look at your landscape:

  • Is it interesting all year long?
  • If you like flowers, is there something blooming all throughout the year?
  • Is there something different – size, shape, color, leaf/needle size/shape?
  • Is there fragrance?
  • Is there flow?
  • Can your landscape get us to the correct front entry or do we need to ‘find’ the door?
  • What is your view from inside the house to out?
  • And lastly, does your garden look like the neighbor’s yard?

It takes a critical eye to repair a poor design or a scattered, rag-tag landscape. If you have trouble, find someone whose opinion you can trust and then make a change. Might only be one plant – a specimen!

Enjoy your time at the nursery!

Contact us if we can help! Home and Garden Workshops & Classes We can also teach you to DIY.