The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has announced its Gold Medal plant winners for 2015.
This particular Japanese maple is a dwarf tree, just 8 to 10 feet tall, with delicate fern-like leaves that turn a brilliant red color in autumn. It has a mounded, multi-stemmed habit, which also makes it attractive for winter interest when the leaves drop in fall. It's also relatively disease-free, a common characteristic of Gold Medal plants. It prefers dappled sun in the afternoon. Use this plant in the garden as a focal point or even as a medium-height screening hedge.
It's annoying to have to keep up with all the botanical name changes, BUT ... this is a wonderful tree, one of my favorites as well. It's native to Canada and the NW United States, but is also used often on the US East Coast. Only 12 feet wide, it's great for narrow spaces, but it does get 20 to 35 feet tall, so use it wisely. It takes full sun or part shade and likes rain and high humidity. A great garden specimen.
If you want a great shade shrub, this should definitely be on your list. Not everyone likes it because of its somewhat coarse texture, but it has significant advantages: large, evergreen, bluish green leaves, and great sprays of yellow, fragrant flowers in spring, followed by brilliant blue berries in fall. And deer resistant. What more could you ask for?
Five to seven feet tall, 10 wide -- plant a few of them together for impact.
If you're going to plant a honeysuckle, plant a native one, like this one, which is not invasive like the Japanese honeysuckles. This one is drought tolerant and also takes dry soils, and it's also deer resistant. It produces red flowers throughout the growing season and will bring on hummingbirds and butterflies. It blooms on new and old wood, so you can more or less prune it as you like to fit the space where you plant it.