The trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals in your yard should be considered in that order. The type and number of trees determine the amount of light for planting shrubs, perennials and annuals. Annuals are the icing on the cake, for decoration with their long-season blooms.
Perennials, with their individual assets, provide bloom or leaf colour and texture at certain times during the year.
Shrubs need to be strategically placed according to their needs and growth habits. Shrubs, like perennials, take a bit of a lesson to know how and where they will perform their best. There are many factors to consider when choosing a shrub.
Are you looking for fragrance? Do you need a shrub for the wet shady area or the dry sandy area in full sun? Do you want autumn colour? Is attracting the birds to your oasis important? Which shrubs will attract winter interest? Is the beautiful, burgundy Barberry bush going to survive our 3-4 growing zone? What can you plant in your rock garden? Do you need a ‘wow look at me’ specimen shrub?
I’ll give a brief lesson here beginning with spring fragrance and bloom. Forsythia, with its early display of bright yellow flowers, is a wonderful sight after the long winter. Cherry blossoms, double-flowering plum and white, pink or purple lilacs have the best fragrance. Golden Mockorange and Bridal-wreath spirea contrast well with the dark leaf of purple sandcherry.
Dogwoods, in a variety of leaf and stem colour, along with Bog Rosemary, birch and willow, can tolerate a damp area. For a shady area plant Hydrangea, cranberry, rhododendron, Gold Splash Euonymus, ninebark or yew for some examples.
Bright sunny spots are great for the drought tolerant Broom, with its yellow showy colour all summer. Elder, juniper, mugo pine, barberry, spirea and potentilla tolerate the Medicine Hat sun.
Before the fall comes we can enjoy the colourful leaves of the Magic Carpet Spirea, Golden Elder, and many varieties of ninebark. Check out the Amber Jubilee, Centre Glow, Coppertina, and Diablo Ninebarks!
Have you ever seen a burning bush in autumn? The Amur Maple shrub turns a brilliant red as well. They are both spectacular!
Do you need a hedge to define your property line? Cotoneaster is all right but you can also try Calgary boxwood, red or white edible currants, globe caragana, yew, lilac, roses, or alpine currant, for more excitement.
For a rock garden or specimen shrub you could plant a weeping spruce, weeping white pine, a weeping caragana or a Young’s weeping birch. Weeping shrubs are slow growers so you can count on them to not grow out of your original landscape design. A top grafted Globe Caragana or lilac will also add the wow factor to your yard.
Providing food for the birds with juniper, high bush cranberry, Staghorn sumac, Nanking cherry, elders, Red-Osier Dogwood, White Pine and yew is one way to support the bird population.
It all comes down to planting instructions and having the best possible soil, to give nutrients to the root system of any shrub. Water deeply once a week after transplanting and just before the winter winds and sun take their toll. Come on down to talk shrubs for a firm foundation in your yard.
Bev Crawford is the Perennial House Manager at The Windmill Garden Centre and John’s Butterfly House.