A Flowering Shrub Border
A Flowering Shrub Border
One of the most satisfying gardens to plant is a flowering shrub border. With a mix of the right shrubs, you can flowers from late winter into the fall. Shrub borders can be tall enough to provide privacy, or short enough for a foundation planting or making a background for perennials. And best of all, when shrubs are planted in the right location, they require less maintenance than most other flowering plants.
Designing a Shrub Border
Begin planning a border of flowering bushes by deciding how tall you want the plants to grow. If you need to keep the shrubs under the windows, or low enough to see the rest of your yard, for example, that will dictate which plants to choose. But if you could use some screening of a patio or backyard, taller plants can be chosen. So start with the desired ultimate height, and choose your shrubs accordingly.
Next, be sure you have included plants that flower in different seasons. Begin with knowing which months you’ll be viewing your border; if you’re not there in the winter, for example, it doesn’t make sense to put in a witch-hazel that flowers in February and March.
Finally, you’ll want to include plants that have different colors and textures of foliage. By including shrubs that have purple, yellow, or variegated leaves there will always be exciting color in your border, even if a particular shrub isn’t in flower.
Shrubs That Bloom in Spring
Shrubs that bloom in the spring include: Rhododendrons, Forsythia, lilacs, Kerria, and white Spirea.
Shrubs That Flower in Early Summer
On Cape Cod, shrubs that flower in early summer include ninebark, Weigela, Viburnum, Deutzia, Diervilla and the pink-flowering spirea. This is only a partial list, of course, but these are some of the most popular shrubs on Cape Cod.
Shrubs That Flower in Mid-Late Summer
On Cape Cod, we love our Hydrangeas, of course, and these have a place in any flowering shrub garden. But in addition to that group of plants, don’t forget about butterfly bush, smoke bush, Potentilla, Vitex, Clethra and button bush.
Winter Flowering Shrubs and Foliage Color
If you’re on-Cape in the winter, you’ll want to include a witch-hazel in your mixed shrub planting. These bloom between early February and late-March. In addition to the winter flowers, witch-hazel has brilliant fall foliage color. Another shrub that flowers all winter is the male Skimmia. This low, shade-loving evergreen has pink buds all winter long that open into white flowers in the spring. Since it stays low and does well in the shade, male Skimmia is a good choice in many foundation plantings.
Placing Plants in Your Shrub Border
When putting plants into a mixed border, it’s a good idea to stagger them in a zig-zag line. Read the tags about how wide a plant will grow, and use that to determine your spacing. But by placing the taller growing shrubs behind, and the shorter bushes in front, you’ll always be able to see the flowers on each variety. Plant some single plants and others in groups of three. This is especially important if you’re looking for a border that is over fifteen feet long. By alternating some individuals and others in groups, you’ll avoid the “line up of the usual suspects” appearance.
If after spacing plants appropriately far apart to accommodate future growth you think that there are too many gaps between your shrubs, plant a few larger growing perennials such as Baptisia, or giant fleece flower in between. These will quickly fill in but won’t become long term problems as the shrubs grow.
Alternate plants according to their bloom time and flower or foliage color. If you need help with designing, remember that Hyannis Country Garden offers both in-store and on-site consultation services. Call for details. 508-775-8703
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Great article – I am trying to resurrect a rock garden I knew as a child. It was all overgrown so I have cleared this 30’ x 4-10’ deep area as best I can. I was told to let it rest a bit to see which plants might come back now that there is light exposure. It is now getting sun at the front/bottom from 11-4 and the back/top is shaded until 2:00. Any suggestions will be appreciated…I would like some taller growing shrubs at the top.
Were there plants in that area that you liked? Native shrubs, for example? What is likely to return quickly are weeds, plus any invasive vines such as the bittersweet, Rosa multiflora, and honeysuckle. So I’m not sure that the advice to wait and see is a great one. In the back use any taller growing, shade tolerant plants such as Clethra, Viburnums, and Rhododendron.