Get the Rub on Shrubs

Discover how shrubs can make a colorful, unique addition to your outdoor space.
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Crimson Bottle Brush Add Color and Texture in Gaps

Crimson Bottle Brush Add Color and Texture in Gaps

The crimson bottlebrush is an evergreen shrub or small tree. They make excellent and unique garden plants. Their bright showy red flower spikes appear in summer and autumn and are made up of a number of individual flowers.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

The crimson bottlebrush is an evergreen shrub or small tree. They make excellent and unique garden plants. Their bright showy red flower spikes appear in summer and autumn and are made up of a number of individual flowers.

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 planting designs.

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.

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