Wednesday, 10 December 2014



Garden shrubs are just as essential to the landscape as is a lawn, trees, patio and paths. Everyone who has a garden no matter how small or large will at some time be considering  a bit of landscape planting for many different reasons, and when we move house to a new property or an established one we still want to create our own wee patch of heaven.
If the new garden is already well established by a previous owner, we need to assess what is there and what we want. Most often you will find several plants that are well worth retaining, so do not be in a rush to clear the site. However on a new built plot just vacated by the builders we will have a blank canvas to create our personal landscape to our own needs. There are many factors to consider so take plenty of time and work things out on paper before buying in the plants.

There are always your own personal “must have” shrubs to find a spot for. My personal choice includes the rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, plus heathers for ground cover. Viburnums and honeysuckle gave me the scents and clematis and climbing roses gave me colour for tall fences.
I know of many impressive very small gardens who may only have one decent specimen shrub, but when it is in full bloom that garden comes alive even if only for a couple of weeks. For the bigger garden with room to grow a magnolia or philadelphus unpruned and allowed to mature it can make a fantastic specimen, but unfortunately too many people get nervous as it reaches ten feet or more and out comes the loppers.
Different parts of the garden will be sunny or shaded, sheltered or flat and in the open or adjacent to walls and fences so each area’s needs will be quite different. I always use all my south facing walls and fences for the more tender or exotic plants such as my outdoor grape vines, cherries and figs.
Shrubs can be used for screening along boundaries or around the compost heap and if an
impenetrable barrier is needed then use a pyracantha, rubus (mentioned below) or some of the very thorny shrub roses. Patio areas have their own needs for shelter from winds, privacy for sun bathing in summer and if possible use scented plants to create a pleasant environment.
Steep banks that are difficult to maintain can be planted with ground cover such as ivies, cotoneasters, hostas or heathers and if the ground is sunny and dry then use senecios, ceanothus, brooms, pinks, and cistus or rosemary and lavender. Some ground cover such as hypericum can also be underplanted with bulbs such as the stronger Darwin Hybrid tulips which will give a spring display of colour.
It is also a good idea to try and create strong impact in a range of places at different times by grouping those plants together that flower at the same time. Cistus flowering in early summer looks great with a background of the taller deep blue ceanothus.
Plants with good autumn colour can also be combined together to give an autumn display before all the leaves fall off. Deciduous azaleas, cotinus, the smoke bush, and dwarf maples will combine to brighten up the autumn display.
Similarly berried plants such as the cotoneasters, pyracanthas, pernettyas and berberis will provide food for small birds as well as being attractive in early winter.
Then for interest right through winter give thought to the coloured stemmed shrubs such as cornus, willow, kerria, rubus and some maples. They make an eye catching display right through to the end of March, when they then get pruned back to ground level. However the show can continue as they are quite happy to share the ground with spring flowering bulbs such as snowdrops, aconites, crocus, daffodils and tulips.
Shrubs can be planted from now right through till next March.

Plant of the week
Rubus cockburnianus is a very prickly white stemmed bramble growing to about six feet tall. It makes quite an impact in the winter garden growing alongside cornus, kerrias and salix. To maximise on the white stems it should be cut down to the ground at the end of March every year.


No comments:

Post a comment