Backbone Plants

Erin Conant

“Backbone” or “anchor” plants establish a solid framework for your landscape that’s essential to achieving balance with an attractive flow.  They typically consist of large trees and shrubs, whose thoughtful placement is the first step in creating a design that works.

Large trees and shrubs do more than just create structure — they make the spaces throughout the landscape more intimate. A bench placed in the back corner of your lot is nice, but put a couple of flowering shrubs and an anaqua tree next to it, and you have a warm, cozy spot that’s much more inviting.

Backbone plants also aide in the smooth transition from one part of the landscape to another. Think of them as large, attractive flags that mark the transition from one space to another. Large shrubs or trees at the corners of your home or at focal points anywhere in the space define and clarify changes to each new area.

Your options for choosing backbone plants are nearly limitless. But choosing evergreens as often as possible can have more impact, especially in the winter months. Evergreen and semi-evergreens plants like Rosemary, agarita and live oaks leave your landscape looking less barren and dry in the winter time when everything else is leafless and dormant.

Backbone plants are easy to place when you have a blank slate, but established landscapes can be amended too. Make your own backbone changes to an already established space and remember to plant them in the fall — the ideal time for transplanting and installing new trees and shrubs.

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