For me, embarking on a gardening project is the cornerstone of each growing season. It may be something small, like trying a new gardening technique. Or it could be something as large as a landscape makeover. But when it comes to the latter, I’ve learned to proceed with caution.
After all, a carefully thought-out landscape design can add usable living space to the yard as well as increase the value of the home. Steps and walkways can lead to a cozy nook designed for quiet contemplation. Solar lighting and a paved patio can create an entertainment area for outdoor parties. A wooden deck can protectively encompass a swimming pool.
Yet, it’s the shrubs we choose that help us create the ambiance we want for each garden setting. A formal knot garden adds elegance. A tall hedgerow affords privacy. Topiary shrubs create a focal point. As permanent features of the garden, shrubs can make or break the success of our landscape design.
Tips for Choosing Landscape Shrubs
First and foremost, it’s obvious landscape shrubs should fulfill the purpose for which they were intended. Planting a low-growing juniper where a tall privacy hedge is needed simply won’t produce the desired results. Likewise, success is dependent upon selecting garden shrubs whose climate and growing requirements match your area. But beyond the basics, consider these additional factors when choosing shrubs for landscaping projects:
- Deciduous vs. Evergreen – Look beyond the simplicity of whether or not you want foliage in the winter. Instead, consider when your landscape shrubs will shed their leaves. That yew or boxwood privacy hedge around the swimming pool may look great year-round, but keep in mind that many deciduous shrubs lose their leaves in the summer. And that can make for one messy pool.
- High vs. Low Maintenance – Deadheading hydrangea, pruning privet hedges or trimming topiary shrubs takes time. While these bushes can make wonderful additions to the landscape, if your time is limited consider low maintenance shrubs like dwarf Albert spruce or Azalea.
- Fast vs. Slow Grow Rate – Fast-growing shrubs, like Forsythia or Crepe Myrtle may be ideal when you’re looking to hide an unsightly area of the yard or quickly establish a tall privacy hedge. But these species can easily overpower smaller foundation plants with their rapid growth rate. For long-lasting curb appeal, opt for slow-maturing landscape shrubs such as Peony and Gardenia.
- Bloom Time vs. Foliage Color – It’s never been easier to add a splash of color to your landscape projects, but coordinating flower color and bloom times to create three seasons of color can be challenging. Instead, provide year-round eye appeal with beautiful foliage shrubs like My Monet Weigela or variegated False Holly.
Finally, don’t be afraid to plant garden shrubs which evoke special memories or those whose characteristics you simply love. Does a Rose of Sharon bush blooming in the summer remind you of Granny? Do you love making holiday wreaths from fresh holly branches? Adding these beloved shrubs will make the garden special to you. After all, that’s what gardening is all about!