Shrubs for year-round interest

It is tempting to choose shrubs solely on the basis of their flowers, but if you consider their leaves, bark and berries as well, you can create a display that is colourful all the year round.

A careful choice of shrubs can provide an ongoing display of colour, from the red leaves of pieris in spring to sprays of cotoneaster berries in autumn. Evergreen shrubs with variegated or glossy foliage are particularly useful in winter.

All the shrubs featured here give value over more than one season. The mahonia, for example, has yellow flowers followed by blue-black berries as well as magnificent evergreen leaves. Firethorn and skimmia both have attractive flowers and long-lasting displays of colourful berries. And the varie- gated dogwood features bright red winter stems once its green and cream leaves drop in autumn.

Gorse and holly at Pipers Wait -

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Easy care

Some are even labour savers – the spreading growth of ground buggers such as euonymus and cotoneaster helps stifle weeds. Nearly all will flourish in any reasonable, well-drained soil; those indicated as moderately hardy may need winter protection in very cold areas.

For most of these shrubs, heavy pruning is unnecessary – simply-trim back to the allotted space and cut out any dead wood, or unvar-iegated growth where appropriate, in spring or after flowering.

The estimated height and spread are for plants of about ten years -a garden-centre shrub is generally no more than five years old when sold. Never cramp shrubs together. If necessary, use annuals and biennials as temporary gapfillers.


Abelia ‘Edward Goucher’. Height and spread 90 cm (3 ft). A sunny, sheltered position is best for this semi-evergreen, which produces small pink flowers in abundance during mid-late summer.

Berberis: There are numerous species, both deciduous and evergreen, of this widely-grown genus. One of the most popular is B. darwinii, height and spread 2.4 m (8 ft), an evergreen with orange-yellow flowers in spring followed by blue berries. The leaves are holly-like. B.d. ‘Nana’ is barely half its size.

B. thunbergii, of which there are several forms, has a height and spread of 1.2 m (4 ft) or more. It is a compact, deciduous, small-leaved shrub, with yellow spring flowers, scarlet berries and lovely autumn colouring.

Buddleia davidii (butterfly bush).. It has lilac-purple flowers in late summer and, like all buddlcias, is lime-tolerant.

Varieties include ‘Black Knight’, deep violet; ‘Empire Blue’, violet-blue; ‘Harlequin’, variegated foliage and red-purple flowers. B.d. Var. nanhoensis is a dwarf form growing to only 1.5 m (5 ft), with smaller racemes of lavender flowers.

B. fallowiana can grow to 3 m (10 ft), with a spread of 1.8 m (6 ft). It has woolly, silver leaves, lavender-coloured flowers in late summer and needs a sheltered site. Along with B. davidii, it does best in a sunny position. B. globosa (orange ball tree) has a height and spread of about 3 m (10 ft) and bears globes of orange flowers in late spring. It is a semi-evergreen and does best in shade.

Caryopteris x clandonensis. Height and spread 90 cm (3 ft). There are several named cultivars, all with small, blue or blue-violet flowers appearing in late summer. It needs a sunny position and a well-drained soil.

Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii. Height and spread 401X301(13 ft x 10 ft). White, str

Grasses, trees and shrubs have a much higher b...

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ongly-scented flowers open in August, followed by blue berries clasped in crimson calyces.

Cornus alternifolia’ Argentea’ (dogwood). Height and spread 2.4 m x 1.8 m (8 ft x 6 ft). One of the best silver-variegated plants, it does best in neutral or acid soil and in a sunny position. Several other Cornus are grown for their coloured stems, which look attractive in winter and should be cut back hard in March to encourage new growth.

Cotoneaster. These shrubs, both evergreen and deciduous, are prized for their massed display of white flowers and for the berries that follow. One of the best is C. conspicuus, height and spread 1.5 m (5 ft), an evergreen with an arching, spreading but graceful habit, white flowers in early summer and large quantities of red berries from early autumn. A sunny position is best.

Cytisus battandieri (Morocco broom). Height and spread 3.6 m (12 ft). This is an open-growing shrub that produces terminal spikes of yellow, pea-like flowers, smelling of pineapples, in late spring. The silver leaves resemble those of the laburnum. A sunny position in neutral or alkaline soil suits it best, but it will also grow well under acid conditions.

Deutzia scabra. Height and spread 3 m x 1.5 m (10 ft X 5 ft). Clusters of white flowers, in June, are the attraction of this erect shrub. They are borne on the previous year’s wood. D.s.

‘Plena’ is a double form with rosy suffusions. Grow in sun or light shade.

Elaeagnus. These tough shrubs can help to provide shelter for others. Both those described will grow in sun or partial shade. E. x ebbingei, height and spread 3 m (10 ft), is a fast-growing evergreen. Its deep green leaves flutter in the wind, revealing silver under-surfaces. Insignificant, but highly-scented, silver-white flowers appear in late autumn. E. pungent ‘Maculata’, height and spread 3.6 m (12 ft), is moderately vigorous and another evergreen. The variegated leaves splashed with gold.

Euonymus alatus. Height and spread 2.4 m (8 ft). Scarlet autumn foliage is the chief attraction of this slow-growing shrub. E. fortunei, an evergreen, has a scrambling or climbing habit, with a spread of about 1.5 m (5 ft).

E.f. ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ is rather more bushy, with green and yellow variegations that become red as the weather grows colder. E.f. ‘Silver Queen’ is compact, with a greater proportion of green in its colouring. The two cultivars mix well.

E. japonicus ‘Aureopictus’, height about 3.6 m (12 ft) and spread 1.5111(5 ft), has an erect habit, with bolder, yellow- splashed variegations. It, too, is an evergreen. All Euonymus grow well in sun or partial shade.

Forsythia. An exceedingly popular shrub, grown for its beautiful spring flowers. Among the best cultivars is F. ‘Beatrix Farrand’, height and spread 4 m X 3 m (13 ft x 10 ft). F. ‘Lynwood’ is very similar. F. ovata, height and spread 1 m x l.j m (3 1/2 ft X 5 ft), is an early-flowering species, but may suffer from damage by birds. Grow in sun or shade.

Fuchsia. Those mentioned here are the hardier sorts, which may nevertheless be cut to the ground in severe winters. They usually recover with fresh growth in spring, but height and spread is determined by winter hardiness. They will grow in sun or light shade.

F. magellanica. Average height and spread is about 1.5 m X 90 cm (5 ft X 3 ft).

The flowers, in late summer, are crimson and purple. F.m. ‘Versicolor’ has a more spreading habit, the leaves acquiring creamy variegations. F. ‘Riccartonii’ makes a much larger plant, especially in a mild district, with a typical height and spread of 90 cm-2.4 m (3-8 ft).

These and other hardy fuchsias add a distinctive form to a border.

Brunfelsia bonodora Brunfelsias (often incorre...

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Garrya elliptica. Height and spread 2.7 m (9 ft). The long, grey-green catkins that hang from the branches in winter and early spring make this a much-planted evergreen. Male plants have the boldest tassels but females carry them, too, and produce seed if planted near a male. A sunny position is best.

Hamamelis (witch hazel). The two main species are H. japonica and H. mollis, which with their hybrid H. x intermedia have several attractive named forms. Perhaps the best way to choose is by visiting a garden or a plant centre in January, when plants may be seen in flower. One particularly striking cultivar is II. Mollis ‘Pallida’, with a height and spread of about 4.5 m (15 ft). Its scented flowers are sulphur-yellow, and the autumn leaves are yellow.

Hebe. Beautiful evergreen flowering shrubs, but very few are reliably hardy in severe winters. Over-wintered rooted cuttings will ensure succession if older plants are killed. Hebes will grow in most soils, in a sunny or partially shaded position and preferably with some shelter. H. speciosa grows to barely 90 cm (3 ft). It has glossy, dark green foliage and bears purple flowers from mid-summer onwards. The flowers of H. ‘Alicia Amherst’ are violet, those of H. ‘Simon Delaux’ deep crimson. Both need protection. H. ‘Waikiki’ is hardier and somewhat smaller, with narrow, bronzed foliage and flowers of lavender-blue.

H. x franciscana ‘Blue Gem’, too, is reasonably hardy, with bright blue flowers. Height and spread 1.2 m (4 ft). Hypericum calycinum (rose of Sharon). This will grow almost anywhere. It reaches about 38 cm (15 in) and has an indefinite spread, making it a useful ground-cover plant. Golden flowers are borne from June until the end of summer. H. ‘Hidcote’, a semi-evergreen, makes a more upright shrub, with a height and spread of 2 m (6 1/2 ft). Bright yellow flowers are carried from July to October.

H. x inodorum ‘Illstead’, with a height and spread of 90 cm (3 ft), has smaller flowers than H. ‘Hidcotc’, but they are followed by conspicuous red fruits. Prone to rust disease.

Kerria japonica. Height and spread 1.2-1.8 m (4-6 ft). This is prized for its abundant orange flowers, borne in April and May. It will grow in sun or partial shade. K.j. ‘Pleniflora’ (bachelor’s buttons) has a height and spread of 1.2 m X 45 cm (4 ft x 1.5 ft), making a slender, upright shape. Arching stems carry double, ball-shaped flowers. K.j. ‘Variegata’, height and spread 90 cm (3 ft), is a low, wiry shrub with variegated foliage and single yellow flowers.

Leucotho efontanesiana. Height and spread 90 cm-1.5 m (3-5 ft). This is an evergreen with a spreading habit. It carries pitcher-shaped white flowers in May, and the leaves take on plum-purple tints in winter. It needs a lime-free soil and grows best in semi-shade. The leaves of E.f. ‘Rainbow’ are variegated cream, yellow and pink.

Lonicera (honeysuckle). The following are all deciduous or occasionally semi-evergreen shrubs and produce their fragrant, creamy flowers in winter- L. Fragrantissima, L. x purpusii and /,. standishii. Average height and spread is 1.8-2.4 m (6-8 ft), and they will grow on most soils and in sun or partial shade.

Mahonia japonica. Height and spread 1.8 X 3 m (6 X 10 ft). This is an evergreen grown for the graceful racemes of fragrant yellow flowers that are carried in winter and early spring. The leathery, spiny-edged leaves are attractive, too. Its hybrid, M. ‘Charity’, is a somewhat taller plant, with larger inflorescences and foliage. Neither is suitable for an exposed site, but they will tolerate light shade.

Philadelphia (mock orange). This has acquired its name from the orange-blossom scent of its while flowers that open in early summer. P. coronarius, height and spread 4 m (13 ft) makes a dense bush that will grow in any soil in an open position. P. ‘Belle Etoile’, with a height and spread of 2 X 1.5 m (6V2 x 5 ft) is more compact.


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Sambuciis nigra (common elder). This has a number of forms, with an average height and spread of 4.5 m (15 ft). They are grown for their shiny autumn berries as well as for their attractive foliage and creamy-white June flowers. Almost any soil suits them, and either sun or partial shade. S.n. ‘Aurea’ has golden-yellow leaves; S.n. ‘Laciniata’ (fern-leaved elder) has finely-cut leaves; the young foliage of S.n. ‘Purpurea’ is flushed purple. P. racemosa ‘Plumosa Aurea’ has golden, deeply-cut foliage. Varieties grown primarily for their foliage should be pruned hard in spring to produce larger, well-coloured leaves.

Spiraea x arguta (bridal wreath or foam of May). This is aptly named. With a height and spread of 1.5 m (5 ft), the slender, arching branches are hidden by tiny white flowers in mid spring. S. x bumalda is about the same size, but the flowers are pink, in flat clusters, and the leaves are variegated cream and pink. The young leaves of S. x b. ‘Goldflame’ are orange-yellow. Choose a sunny position.

Syringa (lilac). Still widely planted for their fragrant spring flowers, lilacs will grow on all soils, including chalk, and in sun or light shade. Many varieties, with large flowers of various shades, will be found in catalogues under S. vulgaris. The exceedingly large, rose-pink flower panicles of S. xjosiflexa ‘Bellicent’, height and spread 3 m (10 ft), make it an excellent specimen plant.

S. velutina, height and spread 90 cm-1.5m (3-5 ft), is a small, dense-growing shrub with lilac or lilac-pink flowers. Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’ (snowball bush). The common name provides a good description of the shrub’s appearance in mid-summer, when large, round heads of pure white flowers are carried. It grows to about 3.6-4.5 m (12-15 ft). V. plication ‘Mariesii’, height and spread 3 m (10 ft), makes a tiered plant with masses of white flowers. Both are suitable for full sun or partial shade.

Weigela. The funnel-shaped flowers in early summer are the chief attraction of these shrubs. Height and spread average about 1.8 m (6 ft). W. ‘Bristol Ruby’ has ruby-red flowers, W.florida pink.

W.f. ‘Foliis Purpureis’ has purple leaves. W.f. ‘Variegata’ has creamy-white leaf margins.

Weigelas will grow in most soils, and in sun or partial shade.


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