Spanning a vast range of woody plants from sprawling ground huggers to statuesque specimens, shrubs are a diverse group that also includes stylish evergreens, colorful foliage plants, and spectacular flowering types. Shrubs can be useful in a multitude of ways throughout any garden space, including the suggestions that are listed below.
Filling Difficult Sites
When looking for a plant to fill a difficult site, you will always find a shrub to suit. There are those that thrive in deep shade, such as skimmias and daphnes, while sun-loving bottlebrush will sail through dry periods. On poor soils buddlejas are almost guaranteed to succeed, and sprawling specimens like Cotoneaster horizontalis will cover a slope or bank. There are even shrubs that are happiest in the salt-laden air near the beach, such as sea buckthorn (Hippophae) and Tamarix.
Injecting Foliage Interest
Shrubs are indispensable foliage plants with the evergreens providing permanent color and deciduous types offering bright new spring leaves and autumn fire. Those with colorful foliage inject highlights into dull green displays, while variegated evergreens perform a similar function, illuminating gloomy areas with splashes of light. Choose shrubs with dramatic leaf shapes to provide points of interest: the bold, glossy, fingerlike forms of Fatsia japonica and the pointed spikes of a yucca are sure to catch the eye.
Creating Container Features
Many shrubs make excellent container specimens, and when planted in
large pots, most are easy to care for. Compact evergreens offer
sculptural year-round displays, either planted on their own or with
seasonal companions. Alternatively, choose a small conifer with textural
foliage and architectural shapes, such as a pencil-thin juniper or the
round Pinus mugo ‘Mops’. To create a flowering container display, look
no further than the vast range of patio roses, available in almost every
color except blue. Shrubs that flower for many months, such as the new
hydrangea hybrids, also make elegant container plants and will make a
superb focal point on a patio.
Providing Structure and Screening
Use a selection of shrubs to create walls and structures in your garden;
box and others with dense foliage make excellent hedges for boundaries
and screens. Shrubs with elegant forms, like hebes and Nandina, offer
sculptural interest in borders and gravel gardens, and try plants with
arching stems, like Buddleja alternifolia, in an open site. Large
foliage shrubs are also useful, providing beautiful backdrops to
Adding Seasonal Flowers
The choice of flowering shrubs is vast and varied, ranging from
inconspicuous winter flowers to big, bright blooms. Most shrubs flower
for only a brief time, but since there are options for every month, you
can enjoy color all year round. The fragrant flowers of witch hazels get
the ball rolling in the winter, followed by a huge selection of spring
blooms and early summer gems, including the scented Philadelphus. The
colorful flowers of summer, such as fuchsias, roses, and hydrangeas, are
followed by fall blooms like heathers (Erica), which maintain interest
as the seasons turn.