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Shrubs for All Seasons

Read more about including shrubs for all seasons.

Contributors: Lorraine Ballato

As I have matured as a gardener, I find I’m more and more interested in what a plant can give me for the entire season.  I have become especially fond of shrubs for their low maintenance, their ability to create vignettes in the garden or to add rhythm to a border.  You can significantly extend the length of time you can enjoy your garden by using shrubs to add texture and rhythm without having the distraction of flowers.


A trio of Chardonnay Pearls Deutzias made it into my zone 5 garden about 4 years ago.  They looked pretty lonely in a mostly shady spot that was boringly populated with hostas.  Today they are clouds of white in spring as they develop into airy mounds of fine foliage, offsetting the shade lovers that surround them.  Not far away, a pair of Little Henry® Iteas has been used to underplant a Japanese maple.  Their small stature and tolerance of dampish soil made it easy for me to create a wonderful fall vignette of reds and oranges.  When mostly everything else in that part of the garden has gone dormant, this area is a riot of color.  The bonus of spring flowers adds light and fragrance to an otherwise ordinary area of the garden.


 Symphoricarpos ‘Proud Berry’.  That’s a mouthful so with this shrub, I usually resort to the common name of Coral Berry.  I bought one as an experiment, trusting the label description of a plant that would adapt well to sun or shade and multiple soil conditions, be deer resistant, add fall color with deep pink berries (which would be attractive to birds), and be hardy to zone 3 (which meant I could use it in a container without fear of losing it to the ravages of winter).  The label undersold this shrub.  What a show I got that year!  The birds and I were ecstatic as we enjoyed the late season attributes of this Coral Berry.  So much so that, I went on the hunt for 3 more.  Now all four are nestled together and settled into a partially wooded area.  From August through late October, the color is practically psychedelic and I’m sure I saw my local bluebirds smiling broadly!


As we all know, true blue is a hard color to find in plants and flowers.  Yet, blue is a most restful color in the garden, one which recedes and creates calming effects, bordering on boring.  When used with other colors like yellow, however, concentrations of blue can make a garden sing.  Remember that stand of Delphiniums that stole your heart.  Or those blue Himalayan poppies (meconopsis) that stopped you dead in your tracks?  Being unable to grow either one of those flowers, I went instead for the Blue Muffin® Viburnum.  Using a half-dozen of them as a hedge/windbreak, I hardly get a chance to enjoy the deep blue of the mid-season berries.  I do, however, get more than ample opportunity to enjoy watching our feathered friends devour the colorful fruit.


With its late season color, drought tolerance, and deer resistance, how could one improve on Caryopteris?  That blue cloud in August has always been a show stopper that lasts for weeks.  Now I’m able to use its “cousin,” Petit Bleu to get the same effect in the front of the border.  To my great delight, someone actually made this plant even better by developing a cultivar with golden-hued foliage.  Adding Sunshine Blue® II to a stand of larger Caryoperteris has energized the combined grouping well before the blue puffs show themselves.


Spiraeas are high on my list of favorite plants.  Working with the public through the local extension office or in my nursery work, I’m always recommending them for tough places, or deer resistance, or less than ideal conditions.  Among the many possible combinations, I’ve come to favor using the yellow leaved spiraeas with Wine & Roses® Weigela.  When the shrubs aren’t in flower, you get to enjoy the bold burgundy foliage of the Weigela in contrast to the finer textured and lighter Spiraea.  Flowers for each of these plants come at different times of the season, and both can rebloom in a good year with some timely and judicious pruning.  Watching the hummingbirds work the Weigela is a bonus.


As good as all this is, I’m anticipating the new crop (pardon the pun) of symposiums, flower and trade shows with great excitement to see what the growers have in store for us like My Monet Weigela.


Since retiring from corporate America, Lorraine has been able to turn her passion for gardening into a second career as a free-lance garden writer.  Her column appears monthly in Housatonic Home, a lifestyle magazine circulated to over 15,000 homes in northwest Connecticut.  She’s also written for People, Places, and Plants, The Connecticut Gardener, and other gardening publications.  Lorraine continues to add to her horticultural knowledge through her work as an Advanced Master Gardener and a nationally-recognized mail order/retail nursery.

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