25 September 2014

Fall is Shrub Planting Season - Flowering Shrubs

Shrub planting season is here and there are more choices than ever. Whether your garden needs tall or short, pencil thin or a thick, the selections for adding year-round beauty have never been so appealing.

Shrubs serve many purposes in the landscape and do not have to be those boring blobs of green
commonly seen around fences and foundations. In order to be called a shrub, plants have to be made of several woody stems that do not die to the ground over the winter.

If you think of a garden you admire, you probably see it as a picture viewed from a window or a terrace, with layers of plants. The plants at eye-level, between the taller trees and the shorter perennials are often shrubs.

The two main categories of shrubs are evergreen which hold their leaves or needles throughout the
winter and deciduous types that drop their leaves. Evergreens include boxwood, euonymus, Burford holly and Nandina (heavenly bamboo), as well as the needle-bearing juniper, pine, and spruce.

Some selected shrubs and their seasons of interest –

Spring flowering – Forsythia, Abelia, Aronia (Chokeberry), Physocarpus (Ninebark), Exochorda
(Pearlbush), Spirea, Weigela, Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince), Viburnum, Azalea, Rhododendron,
Syringa (Lilac), Fothergilla.

Re-blooming shrubs have a smaller number of flowers for three seasons and include roses, hydrangeas, Weigelas, Syringa

Summer flowering – Calycanthus (Sweet Shrub), Hibiscus, Hydrangea, Buddleia (Butterfly Bush), Roses, Crape myrtle, Hypericum (Saint Johnswort)

Autumn flowers, colorful leaves and/or berries – Callicarpa (Beautyberry), Viburnum, Weiglea,
Cephalanthus (Button Bush), Itea (Sweetspire), and Fothergilla has colorful fall leaves.

Winter beauty from bark and/or berries – Ilex (holly) berries, Cornus dogwood red bark, crepemyrtle bark, Viburnum berries, Hawthorn berries, Lindera berries (spicebush), Roses (hips), Pyracantha (fire bush) berries.

When deciding which shrubs to put into large containers for the patio or which ones to add to your
landscape consider what you want and what would be practical. Flowering shrubs bring pollinators and insects that can disrupt activities around doors. Shrubs that drop their leaves are messy around water features such as fountains. Pencil thin shrubs can look spindly and large shrubs can block views.

Berry-producing shrubs bring birds to the garden.

Because there have been so many advances in plant hybrids, many native shrubs have new, improved varieties worth researching.

Consider the size of the shrub at maturity, its sun and irrigation needs, whether it tends to send up suckers throughout the garden, the number of weeks of flowering, cold hardiness, leaf color and style.

A hedge row full of plants with pointy leaves and thorns makes an impression. So does an entire bed full of variegated leaves in white, beige and assorted shades of green.

In planned gardens, evergreen shrubs are inter-planted with deciduous shrubs so that after most plants are bare, there are still some with color. Silver-leaf shrubs are inter-planted with glossy green leaf ones for contrast. Red and orange leaf shrubs are planted among white flowering plants.

Most shrubs benefit from pruning, shaping and a light application of late-winter fertilizer.

For ideas and help

“The Creative Shrub Garden: Eye-catching Combinations for Year-round Interest” by nursery manager Andy McIndoe, published by Timber Press (www.timberpress.com), 2014. $30 list and $21 online.

Plants of Merit, Missouri Botanical Garden’s online reference can be searched by just about any criteria your garden plans require – www.missouribotanicalgarden.org.

Oklahoma State University, Horticulture Department (HORTLA) www.hortla.okstate.edu. Fact Sheet 5816 is “Selecting Shrubs for the Landscape”. Shrubs listings include wet or dry planting area, acid and alkaline soil, shade or sun, showy bark and fruit, winter interest, etc.

Visit a local nursery to see what the shrubs look like. Mail order shrub resources include – Spring
Meadow Nursery, www.springmeadownursery.com and 800-224-4729, Sooner Plant Farm,
www.soonerplantfarm.com and 918-453-0771.

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