Trees are the bones of the garden, flowers the frills, and shrubs -- bones, frills, and all-around workhorses. Every garden needs them for one thing or another.
In the average residential yard, shrubs define property lines, fill in planting beds, and create unity and flow by visually connecting trees to perennials. They provide outstanding privacy screens and wind protection. And those that flower, or have interesting summer leaf colour may be focal points as well. Whatever your need, shrubs are a go-to plant, particularly in the smaller urban yard.
As always, familiarize yourself with the light and moisture conditions for the location you’ve got in mind, and select shrubs that prefer those growing conditions.
If you’re creating a hedge or mass planting, purchase several of the same kind of shrub, and space them by approximately three-quarters their mature width.
Hydrangeas are very popular, and for good reason. Their dramatic flowering starts mid-summer and goes well into fall. When the hydrangeas are in flower, that’s all the flower you’ll need. And an extra bonus, the seedheads add a lovely grace to the winter garden. Bobo Hydrangea is a dwarf variety (.8 m x 1.0 m) with a grand flowering scheme. Every stem sports a white blossom. Fire and Ice Hydrangea is bigger (1.25 m x 1 m) and is all about changing flower colour. Creamy at first, it changes to pink by mid-summer, and finishes up in full fall regalia, a deep burgundy-red. Hydrangeas prefer partial shade and moist soil.
The dogwoods are among our most reliable shrubs and it’s always good to have a new addition. Little Rebel Dogwood is a dwarf (1.5m x 1.5m) with a nice dense globe shape. It has medium green leaves throughout the summer that turn a lovely deep burgundy in the fall. The stems are vibrant red, so no matter what the season, this little plant is contributing to your garden. It prefers full to partial sun and like many dogwoods, will tolerate moist to dry soils when established.
Green Spires Caragana is an exciting new cultivar. It is large (4m x 2.5m), upright, dense, and ideal for privacy screening. Like all caraganas, it is disease and pest resistant. But unlike its relatives, this variety flowers profusely yet produces no seedpods. It prefers full sun and is drought tolerant when established.
Carla Keast has a master’s degree in landscape architecture and is a Winnipeg-based freelance landscape designer. She can be reached at email@example.com.