Shrubs are the Backbone of the Garden

Shrubs are the Backbone of the Garden


Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibraltar’

The longer I garden the more I appreciate shrubs. They ask so little of us. Most only need to be pruned once, either in spring or fall. They need deep soaking for a while until they are established. Once firmly ensconced in your landscape, they give you foliage structure, color, texture, and often a place for birds and wildlife to live. Pictured above is one of my all-time favorite late summer and fall blooming shrubs- Lespedeza. This plant is a legume, which means it takes and uses nitrogen from the air, it’s drought tolerant, and is not eaten by deer. Pruning is EASY- you cut it to the ground every spring. This week it bursts into bloom with 5-6′ tall arching branches covered with purple flowers.


My sister visited me this weekend and I made her inhale the sweet perfume of my’Ruby Spice’ Clethra. She was enchanted with this great native shrub.
There are shrubs for every season. Much breeding has gone into make our classic spring plants better- thornless ‘Double Take Orange’ quince and ‘Encore’ azaleas that repeat bloom are two that come to mind. Native shrubs abound: buttonbush, ‘Ruby Spice’ pink clethra that will fill your yard with sweet perfume, dwarf white pine for a soft, fluffy evergreen accent. Evergreens are truly the bones of any landscape. They shine in the winter when the deciduous shrubs lose their leaves. We have bizarre weeping specimens such as ‘Naylor’s Blue’ cypress and Chamaecyparis nootkinensis ‘Pendula’. pic3For the shade I am surprised to see we have the stunning dwarf bluish/purpleRhododendron ‘Scintillans’ still hanging around. There is ‘Zephrine Drouhin’, an antique THORNLESS pink climbing rose as well as ‘Double Pink Knockout’, a modern hybrid. Looking to create an oriental look? Try clumping bamboo, slow growing, perfect for dappled shade, and it will never overrun your yard. Many folks are switching out higher maintenance perennials that need┬ástaking, constant deadheading, or spraying with easy care shrubs. This helps to make a yard more manageable as many of us age along with our gardens. It’s one of my secrets on my nearly two acres of property. I design my flower gardens around masses of shrubs of all kinds. I have privacy, fragrance, branches for cutting and forcing, a great habitat for all creatures, and a beautiful view every day of the year. Why don’t you stop in this week and let us help you to choose some new shrubs for your yard?

Try dwarf blue spruce forgorgeous foliage interest 12 months a year.


‘Sugar Tip’ variegated rose of Sharon is sterile- no seedlings to deal with. This is one of the highlights of my yard right now.