The must-have plants for instant impact in your backyard, according to the experts

Bringing in a big specimen plant this month will add the wow factor to your outside space, and here’s how the experts would do it

several cypress trees in a large garden border
(Image credit: Architectural Plants)

If you're looking for ways to give your planting scheme some instant impact, it pays to go big and bold this summer say the experts. Including one or two architectural plants as part of your backyard ideas can have a transformative effect on the look and feel of your space. 

'Adding a stand-out specimen plant to any backyard is a wonderful way to lift any planting scheme at this time of year,' says Guy Watts, owner and managing director of Architectural Plants, a specialist plant nursery, also offering garden design and planting advice. 

But what statement plants do the experts recommend you add to your planting list if you're searching for instant impact, and how easy are they to get hold of?

large cordyline plants in containers

With their exotic appearance, cordylines will make a bold feature in any backyard

(Image credit: Crocus)

Statement plants for every space

Architectural Plants is just one of a number of specialist sellers online in the UK and US, but you’ll find statement plants, such as a cordyline Red Star at any garden centre or nursery at this time of year, and it’s just one of the many architectural beauties available to buy which add instant impact to any garden or backyard.

A banana tree – seen everywhere at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in the UK in May – is another brilliant option to consider. It will bring fresh interest to a patio, adding privacy too as it matures and gains height and width.

You will want your outdoor specimen plant to be hardy as its eventual size and weight will make it difficult to move. Try the trachycarpus fortunei, also known as the Chinese windmill palm, windmill palm or Chusan palm, says Guy – 'it’s surprisingly tough and perfect for a tropical garden.'

Dicksonia tree fern surrounded by evergreen shrubs

This Dicksonia tree fern makes a striking focal point

(Image credit: Architectural Plants)

Evergreen options

If you are thinking of creating dramatic landscaping with evergreens, tall elegant cypress trees will bring a Mediterranean feel to any garden. 

Guy likes Cupressus sempervirens 'Pyramidalis', because 'it offers vertical impact excellent for framing and drawing the eye to and from the under planting.'

Italian cypress trees in a garden border

Add height and impact with cypress trees

(Image credit: Architectural Plants)

Consider flowers and scent too

Don’t discount colorful flowers as statement specimen plants either, is the advice of Sarah Squire, chairman of Squire’s Garden Centres. 'For striking, floral elegance and a spark of vibrant color, there is agapanthus,' she says. 

'It is perfect for pots so can be moved about to add color to any corner and great for borders too. Some varieties of agapanthus boast a height of up to three feet, it gives a wonderful structural display year after year.'

Bringing in fragrance as well as visual interest is a great idea when adding a specimen plant. For that reasons, Sarah also recommends Star Jasmine (trachelospermum jasminoides). 

'This might not be an obvious choice for an architectural statement, but it will deliver a wonderful fragrance for the summer with its star-like flowers contrasted with glossy foliage. It’s a great climbing plant and it works well in pots too, growing on a trellis frame. It’s perfect for a patio or trained for arches or bordering a doorway.'

Will you be adding one of these statement plants to your backyard this summer?

Jayne Dowle
Freelance writer

Jayne Dowle is an award-winning gardening, homes and property writer who writes for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. She was awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021.