Design With Shrubs

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Landscapers often consider the color provided by flowers, the convenience and beauty of stone walking paths, the shade and fruit of a nice apple tree and other elements. But no landscaping effort is complete without the proper selection and placement of some great shrubs. You’ll want to select a shrub based on your desire to add a certain color, shape and size to your landscape design.

A Burning Bush, for example, provides an effusion of lovely red color in a big, round form. Perfect for Summer and Fall, these large shrubs make a great centerpiece.

China Holly is a good choice for anyone who wants some contrast against winter snow. The evergreen foliage and bright red berries help relieve an otherwise bleak landscape. Or, you may want to provide a nice green border in contrast to a white picket fence.

Shrubs have many purposes beyond adding color, though. You may want to have a row of hedges to complement its base or mask the foundation of your house. They can form the center of a circular garden design, with flowers or ground cover planted all around. Sumac, the non-poisonous and most common type, makes a colorful and shapely choice, for example.

You may want to show off your topiary skills by carving some shrubs into interesting shapes. ‘Topiary’ is the art of forming bushes into geometrical or animal shapes. You may have seen photos of some of the spectacular examples in the gardens of Versailles. Just keep in mind, that once you begin that practice, it takes a lot of effort to maintain the desired shapes.

You can select your shrub based on height, to get just the effect you need in a certain spot. Smooth Hydrangea, for example, grows from 3-5 feet. A Chinese Juniper, will reach 5-8 feet. Or you may need something smaller for those special spots where nothing else works. Try a Cranberry Cotoneaster or a Dwarf Honeysuckle that rarely get over three feet.

If you want shrubs that are easy to care for, you can look into a Bougainvillea. Its bright red leaves provide beautiful color while the bush is very drought tolerant and requires very little pruning. Or, for something a little taller, try a Mentor Barberry. These hardy plants require very little care to stay attractive year after year.

A Purple Sand Cherry will give you lovely flowers in May and colorful cherry berries in the Fall, making it a great multi-season shrub. The purple foliage lasts for months, persisting until winter.

You can supplement your shrub selection and placement with vines for a truly complex design. You’ll find many color and shape options there, too. A climbing vine threading through a trellis set against the wall behind a shrub makes for a design worth photographing.

While you shape your landscape, let your imagination grow wild.


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