Many would argue that the main purpose of shrubs, is to to simply add structure to the garden and provide a mere backdrop for the showier perennials of the season. However, there are many beautiful shrub varieties that can bring their own characteristics to the display. These shrubs, not only provide year-round interest, but can be used very successfully to bring beauty and attraction to the garden when the summer perennial season is over or not yet begun.
Below are just a few of my favourite shrubs, which I use in my planting schemes to give year-round interest.
Choisya (Mexican orange blossom)
- A hardy evergreen shrub that tolerates sun or partial shade and looks good year-round.
- In late spring and early summer dainty white scented flowers appear.
- Varieties such as ‘Sundance’ have lime green/yellow leaves, which can really stand out and brighten a gloomy corner.
- Choisyas are a great choices for all types of gardens.
- A tough shrub that will tolerate any soil and aspect.
- Striking spiked evergreen leaves and bright yellow flowers from November to March followed by purple/black berries.
- The flowers add a lovely vibrant splash of colour when most other plants are beginning their dormant period.
- My particular favourite variety of Mahonia is ‘Soft caress’, as this has a slightly softer, more subtle look to it.
- Cornus is another of the shrubs I would choose in my planting schemes for winter interest, also known as dogwoods. These hardy deciduous shrubs have a lot of colourful varieties available to suit any scheme.
- Green or varieagated leaves throughout spring and summer give a great backdrop to perennials, but these shrubs really shine in autumn and winter when the leaves turn their striking autumn colour and then in winter the leafless stems glow in a bare winter bed.
- One of my favourite varieties is ‘Mid-winter fire’ which tolerates a wide range of soils, has a fantastic autumn display and the stems are a beautiful yellow through to orange/red.
- To keep the shrub in check and encourage those bright stems prune a third of the stems back to ground level in spring.
- A popular evergreen shrub with a wide range of varieties, this shrub can be used as a hedging plant, at the back of a border or in a mixed shrub border.
- Some varieties have variegated yellow or white foliage, others are a lovely glossy green, some are low growing and great for ground cover others have a compact upright shape.
- Euonymus are very versatile and easy to care for.
Nandina (Heavenly bamboo)
- Named for its bamboo like foliage, this evergreen/semi-evergreen shrub looks good in every season.
- It takes on hues of red in spring, and then turns green through summer and can bear tiny white flowers which then become green berries. These berries then turn bright red in autumn and the foliage takes on fiery red and bronze tints.
- There are great compact varieties, perfect for small spaces and they are very low maintenance – only needing a light trim in spring.
- Viburnums are easy to care for shrubs that can be evergreen or deciduous, with many different characteristics to suit all styles and sizes of garden.
- There are few I always go back to when incorporating viburnums into a scheme. Viburnum davidii is a low growing, evergreen variety that provides flowers in winter to spring, metallic blue berries, and green structure throughout winter in a mixed border.
- Viburnum opulus is native to the UK and wildlife friendly. It has beautiful spring flowers followed by bright red glossy fruits and lovely autumn colour.
- Viburnum x bodnantense has lovely scented pale pink flowers as well as eye-catching autumn colour. It’s a great choice for planting close to seating areas or entrances, where the scent and delicate flowers can be appreciated up close.
These are just a few of my favourite shrubs for year round interest. There are many varieties available to add colour and structure throughout the year whatever your size or style of garden.