Shrubs Are Mainstay of the Landscape

Filed in Landscaping by on May 3, 2014

Photo Source: www.atlanticlawnandgarden.com

Photo Source: www.atlanticlawnandgarden.com

Shrubs provide a framework around which to design a garden. Whether planting a border,  woodland, around your house or drive, or some other landscape space, shrubs are an important consideration.

I planted a perennial garden along a fence a few years ago but left out the shrubs. The garden was beautiful in the summer, but come winter it fell flat – literally and figuratively. Oh sure, the hyssop dried and provided some interest, but as I looked out across my yard that winter the only thing between me and the 64-foot fence was a 2-by-3 patch of dried hyssop. Now whenever I plan a garden, my thoughts turn to shrubs.

Shrubs fall into the category of multi-stemmed woody perennials that live for three years or more and typically grow no more than 15 feet tall. The distinction between shrubs and trees grows murky when shrubs are grown as standards and trees are sometimes multi-stemmed, but the description is good enough for practical purposes.

Like all plants, shrubs vary in light, water and soil requirements, in addition to size, rate of growth and design elements, such as form, foliage, flowers, fruit, bark, fragrance, and branches. So whatever you can envision, whatever challenges your site offers (e.g., shade, bog, arid slope), shrubs can provide the framework. With so many options, though, you may have difficulty choosing.

Choice depends on landscape design, which in turn depends on wants and constraints of the site. Do you want a privacy screen or to hide an unattractive view? Consider the arborvitae family and grow a tall evergreen hedge. Do you want a shrub at the edge of a woodland area? One of the serviceberry cultivars might be a good choice.

Today, my fence garden plan includes shrubs as its mainstay. The mixed border resembles a jazz ensemble where each instrument (shrub) takes center stage in turn and then moves (figuratively) into the background. Against this background, perennials, annuals and bulbs take turns in the spotlight.

When planning for your garden, take a look at Tree & Shrub Gardening for Minnesota and Wisconsin by Engebretson and Williamson. Below I’ve listed choices for year-round interest along my fence which ranges from sun to partial shade.

Photo Source: hollyhillnurseries.wordpress.com

Photo Source: hollyhillnurseries.wordpress.com

Forsythia blooms with the first blush of April’s warmth. ‘Meadowlark’ has the hardiest flower buds and can withstand temperatures of minus 35 degrees. It is covered with bright yellow flowers in early spring and will grow vigorously into an 8-foot shrub. This sun-loving plant has a fountain-like habit with arching branches.

Photo Source: www.michiganbulb.com

Photo Source: www.michiganbulb.com

Azaleas continue the spring show, blooming mid to late May. ‘Golden lights’ is one of the renowned Northern Lights series of very cold-hardy azaleas bred in Minnesota. The flowers open from bright golden buds into orange bloom sand are held in clusters on a shrub 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Fall foliage is a rich bronzy-red. Loves sun and acid soil and wants some protection from the wind.

Photo Source: www.gurneys.com

Photo Source: www.gurneys.com

Lilacs are out most faithful harbinger of spring, and one can find specimens blooming in May through June. A favorite is ‘Miss Kim,’ a dwarf Korean lilac featuring light pink, fragrant blossoms and large leaves that turn purple in the fall. This sun-loving plant grows to 7 feet tall.

Photo Source: www.evergreenplantnursery.com

Photo Source: www.evergreenplantnursery.com

Ninebark is an easy-growing shrub that adapts to most growing conditions. ‘Diabolo’ has early-summer flowers but is most prized for its attractive purple foliage – a dramatic backdrop for perennials and annuals. Likes sun or partial shade and matures to 8 to 10 feet in height and spread.

Photo Source: www.homedepot.com

Photo Source: www.homedepot.com

Spirea is a favorite, probably because everyone remembers the gracefully arching bridalwreath in grandmother’s yard. With new introductions each year, there’s a spirea for every yard. ‘Neon flash’ has vivid pink flowers and grows up to 36 inches tall and wide. Spirea prefers sun but can tolerate light shade. Great planted in multiples.

Photo Source: www.jungseed.com

Photo Source: www.jungseed.com

Hydrangeas come in many forms and have many uses in the landscape. ‘Annabelle’ bears large, ball-like clusters of white flowers from early to midsummer and is indispensable in my garden because it performs well in part shade. Mature shrubs can reach 5 feet in height and width.

Photo Source: rosepetalsnursery.com

Photo Source: rosepetalsnursery.com

Roses, specifically hardy shrub roses, find a place in my mixed border. ‘Blanc double de Courbert’ is a repeat blooming rugosa with double white, fragrant flowers and orange-scarlet hips. Like all roses, it likes sun. Grows into a 5-by- shrub.

Photo Source: www.gurneys.com

Photo Source: www.gurneys.com

Dogwood such as ‘Cardinal’ red osier with bright red twigs in winter provide much needed color. Mature size approaches 10 feet in height and spread. Grows well in light or partial shade, but the best stem color develops in full sun.

Photo Source: www.homedepot.com

Photo Source: www.homedepot.com

Arborvitae provides color and structure in the winter garden. ‘Holmstrup’ is a small (10 feet by 36 inches) upright plant with whorls of tightly compact foilage that looks great against a fence. Prefers sun.

by Reba Gilliand, a Master Gardener in West Otter Tail County. 

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