Here are ten of our favorite low-maintenance, water efficient plants that we have had much success with. We chose these specifically for their beauty, since having a sustainable backyard or front yard in New York City doesn't mean it has to be an eye sore.
1. Creeping Phlox
Excellent ground cover in lieu of a grass lawn. Comes in a variety of colors.
2. River Birch
This excellent shade tree does well in wet soils and in dry summers. Great choice when you are looking to add a "speciman" plant to the garden.
3. Lily Turf (Liriope)
Lily Turf is one of those plant that you might not be able to kill even if you tried (we havent). Makes for a great ground cover, looks great all year round as long as you give it a trim in early spring and shows a beautiful flower from August through September.
4. Deer Fern
Perfect for neutralizing the garden and good for the shady areas. We like it better than Lady Fern (they tend to attract slugs).
A great drought tolerant plant and little care is needed in general. Plant the "Autumn Joy" sedum for a spectacular show of the colored, puffy flowers that bloom in mid-to late summer.
6. Butterfly Weed
If you want some friends in the garden, this is the perfect plant that butterflies cannot resist. Needs a little bit of TLC here and there but we think it is well worth it.
7. Japanese Wisteria
Great in full sun or partial shade, this drought-tolerant climber produces bunchs of flowers that can be up to 18 inches long depending on the species. Great over a patio or trellis but don't let it get too close to your house, it might tear it down. Seriously.
8. Japanese Black Pine
One of my favorites, maybe because we had them around my yard as a kid and I loved collecting the pine cones. Like with a lot of Japanese plants, they inherintly give off a sense of stability and calmness and grow unbelieveably well in the New York climate. Don't plant near a patio or where any cars are present, you'll never get the sap off either.
9. Highbush Blueberry
Some people might not think of the blueberry plant, which can grow wild, as "beautiful" but we certainly do. Not only are they native, provide habitat for birds, attract other wildlife and provide excellent fall color...they also produce blueberries!
10. Cherry Blossom
This is truely my favorite on the list. We have one hanging over our pond and in spring when the Cherry Blossom blooms it makes a for a photo scene that is worthy of a magazine cover. They can grow quite large but need little care, the three in our yard have been growing wild for 25 years.