Gardeners may begin gardening because of a love for flowers or fresh vegetables, but most of us progress toward an even greater love for shrubs.
I might be painting with too broad a brush here, but I sincerely doubt that an intense longing for viburnum or holly serves as the gateway into gardening for most of us. And yet, if my own gardening journey is anything to go by, the longer we garden, the more we come to appreciate the shrubs we once overlooked.
Shrubs used to speak to me of boring foundation plants, like a green caterpillar circling the base of every house. Now they speak to me of a beauty and a generosity that persists for four seasons.
Shrubs need very little care. A little pruning is all some of them ask and most don’t even ask for that.
Shrubs give our spaces structure. They define garden rooms, mark boundaries, and tie together the tall trees and the ground far below.
Shrubs give scent and blossom in spring, lush green growth in summer, autumn color and sometimes fruit, and in winter they are the garden’s strong bones revealed by a dusting of snow.
Here are a few you might consider adding to your garden:
Ninebark: Common ninebark (physocarpus) is a great, all-around shrub, but there are wonderful varieties to seek out. I love “Summer Wine,” a large cascading shrub with beautiful wine-colored leaves and small pink flowers in spring.
Japanese Snowball (viburnum plicatum): A very large shrub with snowballs of white flowers in spring and deep red autumn foliage. No special care needed at all.
Oakleaf hydrangea: Hydrangea quercifolia is one of the few hydrangeas native to the U.S. There are many varieties, and most have beautiful fall color.
Boxwood: Again, there are many varieties to choose from. You can have tall, treelike box or prune dwarf varieties into beautiful small shapes. Look for varieties that fit your winter weather and need for disease resistance. There’s nothing like a freshly-pruned boxwood ball to set off roses and other flowers.
‘Mohawk’ viburnum: There are many beautiful viburnums to choose from and most will benefit wildlife in your garden. The spring flowers of Mohawk are a lovely pink.