Boxwood Shrubs7 products
Butterfly Bush5 products
Cherry Laurels3 products
Encore Azaleas9 products
Hops Plants2 products
Knockout Roses5 products
Other Shrubs & Hedges11 products
Smoke Trees2 products
Wisteria Vines3 products
Fast Growing Shrubs and Hedges
When planning a landscape or garden there are two areas that often get most of the attention. These are tree planting and the planting of turf for a lawn. This is rather like decorating and taking care of just the ceiling and the floor but forgetting about the walls. What gives a garden much of its charm and appeal is what goes on around us, in human scale, in the first 10 feet from the ground. That is what we see most and what takes our immediate attention. It is the planting in that zone that sets out the spaces we move in and our directions of movement around the garden. A lawn with a couple of trees if fine enough, but it isn’t really a garden, which has visual interest at eye-level and gives a dual sense of space and enclosure. That sense is achieved by the planting and organization of Shrubs and Hedges.
When gardeners talk about shrubs they are thinking of plants that are about our size. They may be dwarf shrubs, just a foot or two of the ground, or large shrubs that could be 15 feet tall, but they have a human scale and proportion. They don’t inspire the awe of a towering tree, but they have a charm and appeal that we can immediately relate to. Shrubs differ from trees in having more than one main stem. Some trees may, by nature or through training, have two or three main trunks coming from close to the ground although most will have a single straight trunk. Shrubs have many main stems and don’t normally have an obvious trunk, although it is sometimes possible to prune and train some of them to have a central stem and look tree-like, just as some small trees can look shrub-like. So there is no hard-and-fast rule to separates trees from shrubs except that we usually call a shorter plant with several stems a shrub and a taller plant with one or a few stems a tree.
Best Shrubs In Your Garden
Shrubs have many uses in the garden. If the trees form the bones of your landscape, then shrubs are the muscle. They give structure and permanence. They form a backdrop to the open areas we use for play or entertaining. By playing with their different shapes, textures and leaf colors, we can create a vibrant flow of forms across the garden that will turn a walk outside into an adventure.
They also welcome visitors by forming the foundation planting that frames our house and ties it to the ground. Foundation planting is the shrubs that go around your house and it should be the next element, after turf and shade trees, which you develop on your property. Good foundation planting obscures defects and hides utilitarian features like meters and air-conditioning units. It softens the hard lines of a house and breaks the sharp line where the walls suddenly drop to the ground. It frames the windows with foliage and blooms as well as creating interesting shapes that link the built structure into the surrounding landscape.
From a strictly practical point of view, shrubs can be used to give privacy if we only need it in the lowest 6 to 10 feet or so. They can be massed together singly or in a variety of types to block an unattractive scene or to hide a fence. And of course they can be clipped into a hedge. Many of our Privacy Trees and Evergreen Trees are specially selected to be made into hedges and a browse of our selections in those areas will give many choices. A hedge can be informal, which is easy to plant. Just choose an upright, rather dense-growing plant, plant them close together and let them grow. However when we think of hedges we usually see in our mind’s eye something neatly trimmed and flat, like a green wall around the garden. Hedges have a practical purpose in screening and they also make a perfect background for flowering shrubs and trees. With hedges you can divide your garden into different zones and create outdoor rooms for different activities, like vegetable growing, entertaining or children’s play.
Hedges don’t have to be tall; in fact centuries ago the idea of using short hedges to divide an area into parts was all the fashion. Each part was filled originally with gravels of different colors and later with flowers to make what the French call a parterre. The plants of choice for this were Boxwood Shrubs and today we still use these small, evergreen shrubs with their tiny leaves to make low hedges that can be just a foot tall to perhaps three feet tall. These boxwood hedges can outline a drive or walkway. They can edge a flower bed or the planting around your house. Often they are associated with a ‘formal’ style of gardening with lots of straight lines and crisp corners. This style is a great way to bring a period accent to an older house and is very much an historic and appropriate feature for such homes. With imagination it can also be used with the most modern home too, as straight lines or curves to reflect the geometry of your home’s architecture.
English Boxwood is the variety usually chosen for small hedges, as it can easily be kept just a foot tall. For larger hedges up to 5 feet tall American Boxwood is the ideal choice and this plant can also be grown as individual specimens with little or no clipping. Left to grow it will reach 5 to 8 feet tall in time, and 4 feet or more across. It is a great component of a foundation planting and being evergreen gives a strong sense of permanence to your landscaping. Both of these boxwoods can also be clipped into balls, columns, pyramids, cones and other garden features that add interest, variety and historical flare to your garden.
Types of Privacy Hedges and Shrubs
Deciduous Shrubs: These plants, like many trees, lose their leaves in the winter. Because of this, deciduous shrubs create very different garden atmospheres with the seasons. In winter we notice the form of their branches which can often be twisted and picturesque, and we notice their bark, perhaps in interesting colors and rough or smooth textures. These subtle effects give interest to the winter garden. In spring these plants will burst into leaf and often into flower as well. Many deciduous shrubs flower early in the year, perhaps even before the leaves come out, or shortly after those fresh, perfect spring leaves appear. We particularly value those shrubs that hold back from the main spring and early summer display, and give us color in summer and even into fall when flowers on other shrubs are absent. The right choice of shrubs, like the Nikko Blue Hydrangea, or for colder regions the Endless Summer Hydrangea, will give flowers from mid-summer right into fall, and these plants will look great for weeks and weeks.
Some shrubs can do even more. They flower more-or-less continuously from spring to frost and are perhaps the greatest value of all. Some of the roses fall into that category, especially the incredible Knockout series of roses, which not only flower all season, but are tough, hardy and resistant to the diseases that make problems for so many rose bushes. You can choose the red Double Knockout Rose or the Double Pink Knockout Rose and be sure to have a great color parade in your garden all season long. If their 3 or 4 feet of bushiness is not enough for you, then the Knockout Rose Tree will be a sure winner, with its rich red flowers right at eye level on a shrub that sits on a short trunk, so that it is 6 to 8 feet tall. It is sure to be a winner in any garden and this is a group of roses that really can’t be beaten.
Evergreen Shrubs: Just like trees, not all shrubs lose their leaves in winter. Some continue to be lush and green all year round, which makes them especially valuable in creating a sense of permanence in your garden. Only if you live in the coldest areas will it be difficult to grow evergreen shrubs and for most gardeners these will be reliable plants that charm all year long. While some evergreen shrubs, like the Boxwood Shrubs, are grown for their soft, dense all-year-long foliage, many of the evergreen shrubs have spectacular flowers and bring a lot of color to the garden.
For flowering two groups stand out.
Firstly there are Azalea Shrubs. Azaleas belong to the plant group Rhododendron. This is an enormous group with over a thousand wild species that have been worked with for hundreds of years by plant breeders so that today there are around 28,000 different varieties (or cultivars to give them their correct name). Some of these plants are deciduous, some are evergreen. Some are less than a foot tall; others can be 20 or 30 feet tall and others a great deal taller. They all have relatively large flowers in almost every color except true blue. The sizes of the leaves vary a great deal and the name Rhododendron is often used by gardeners when talking about those that have larger leaves that are also often smooth and shiny. The Lavender Rhododendron is a great garden plant that will grow in many areas and is a selection of an American native shrub.
The name Azalea is used to describe the ones with fairly small leaves, often soft and slightly hairy. There are many azaleas to choose from, but the Delaware Valley White Azalea is a tried-and-true variety that has stood the test of time in gardens and still stands out for its ease of growth and gorgeous, pure-white flowers. Since Azaleas grow well in shade, white is a fabulous color to use since it really glows in the shadows and stands out as no other color will in low-light conditions. For a real show-stopper there is also the Conversation Piece Azalea, which is just that – a conversation piece – since a single bush can have flowers from white to rich pink with all shades in between and even flowers that are part pink and part white. When smothered in blooms this unique plant will really catch the attention of your friends and neighbors and get them talking.
Secondly there are Camellias. These carry large flowers that can be 6 inches across, with many petals. Their colors range from pure white to deep red, with all possible shades of pink in between. Some have flowers that are partly white and partly pink in random patterns. They may be neat and ‘formal’ with perfectly arranged petals, or loose and care-free, sometimes showing a centre of bright yellow stamens. When first brought back from China and Japan almost 300 years ago gardeners were so amazed by these spectacular plants they put them in greenhouses to protect them from the weather –something that beautiful must be tender and need protection from the cold. But they were wrong and Camellias turned out to be pretty hardy. Almost all will thrive in zone 7 and a number grow well throughout zone 6. Since they will also grow well right down into zone 9, this means that throughout the West and from most of Kansas and Ohio southwards, Camellias are great choices for your garden. They are upright, evergreen shrubs that despite their exotic blooms can grow as much as a foot a year and reach 10 or 20 feet in height. The leaves are rich green, glossy and 3 or 4 inches long. These are versatile shrubs that will grow naturally into dense plants. They can also be controlled by pruning and even clipped into a hedge.
One of the most valuable features of Camellias in the garden is that they will flower even before winter has gone. As the days lengthen in the new year they burst into bloom long before other spring flowering plants. Some varieties can’t even wait for spring and burst into bloom in mid-winter. One of these, the Yuletide Camellia, is so eager it will be out by Christmas in warmer states and even has Christmas-red flowers. Not quite so early, but still eager to bloom, is the Debutante Camellia, which lives up to its name with its blush-pink swirl of petals that look like they just left the ball. Others just want to be different and so Camellia ‘Shi-Shi Gashira’ waits to bloom until the fall. This particular plant is an ideal choice for the smaller garden, since it only grows 3 to 5 feet tall.
Vines: Since they are certainly not trees, the various climbing and twining plants can also be thought of as a type of shrub and that is where we at the Tree Center have chosen to place them. Vines decided long ago that making your own stems was just too much work and slowed you down from growing and flowering. So they chose instead to lean on their neighbours as a way to reach the sun. Some have special leaves to climb with, like the Boston Ivy, but most simply twine around any convenient support and race to the top.
Perhaps the most spectacular vines are the Wisteria Vines, which came from China and Japan many years ago. They brought their gorgeous rich-blue hanging panicles of flowers with them, which make a glorious show every spring in all but the coldest areas. They literally smother the bare stems with bloom to form a continuous mound of blossom. They will naturally climb up into a large tree but in the garden they are the perfect choice to cover an strong arbor or fence. They are especially beautiful on an arbor as the hanging blooms can be seen to their best effect. With some careful pruning when young they can even be turned into true, self-supporting shrubs or small trees and have an exotic, twisted character that is perfect to give an oriental flavor to your landscape.
If you enjoy growing plants that are useful as well as beautiful then you might want to grow Hops Plants, which will make it possible to brew your own beer with your own special line of hops, or simply stuff a pillow to help you sleep. Hops are also attractive fast-growing vines to cover trellis panels or a boring fence.
Choosing Shrubs and Hedges for your Garden
When you have an idea of what kinds of shrubs you want to use, read our detailed descriptions of each plant. You will see that your choice is going to be influenced by:
- Your hardiness zone. Some shrubs are more delicate than others and need warmer conditions to grow in. However most will thrive in the wide range of conditions found in American gardens.
- Dry conditions can also affect your choices. Some plants need a regular supply of water, while others are very drought tolerant once established.
- The acidity of your soil. Some plants, especially Azaleas and Camellias, do not enjoy lime in their soil. So if you live in an alkaline area you may not be able to grow them easily in the garden, but they do make excellent plants for pots, where they can easily be grown in potting soil developed for acid-loving plants.