Consult this list of shrubs before you shop at the nursery. My "Top 10" list describes popular specimens for the yard, as well as some bushes with which novices may be less familiar. Other bushes, of course, could easily have been included in this list, such as the ever-popular azaleas
. But the kinds of shrubs presented in this listing are a good place to start, especially if year-round color
in the landscape is your goal.
The first 9 bushes on my must-have list of shrubs all merit inclusion based on the color they bring to the yard during a particular season (although some offer multi-season interest). I've placed witch hazel at the beginning of this list of shrubs, because it ushers in the growing season -- at least in my own zone 5
landscape, where it is the earliest plant to bloom. Flowering as it does in March, my witch hazel gives me the jump on everyone else in the neighborhood, in terms of having something in bloom in the yard.
Witch hazel (above) beats forsythia to the punch in blooming, but it is not nearly as common. I'm the only one in my neighborhood to grow witch hazel, whereas several of my neighbors grow forsythia. Common or not, forsythia still belongs on a list of shrubs that are must-haves. Not only is forsythia a vigorous, beautiful bush, but it is also an early bloomer (next in line among bushes to bloom in my yard, after witch hazel).
Lilac's blossoms pick up where forsythia's leave off. This May-flowering bush has one of the yard's most fragrant flowers
. Although various cultivars
are now marketed (I, myself have grown 'Bloomerang' and 'Miss Kim'), I prefer the smell of the old-fashioned lilacs.
As a summer-flowering bush with a long blooming period, rose of sharon occupies something of a strategic spot on this list of shrubs: it helps bridge the gap in yard color between the spring displays put on by flowering bushes
and displays offered by bushes with fall color
Speaking of bushes that offer fall color, I've seen some knockout autumn displays put on by fothergilla. And it is, indeed, fothergilla's fall foliage that earns it inclusion on this list of shrubs. Fothergilla does, however, provide interesting "bottle-brush" flowers in spring, too.
Like fothergilla (above), oakleaf hydrangea is a bush that boasts multi-season interest. But while its flowering period is in the summer, oakleaf hydrangea really comes into its own in autumn, when its leaves turn beautiful colors. For good measure, its exfoliating bark adds winter interest to the yard.
The 'Elegantissima' cultivar of red twig dogwood outdoes even oakleaf hydrangea (above). A titan of four-season landscaping
, this plant offers year-round visual interest. But despite bearing spring blossoms, variegated leaves in summer, and berries from summer to fall, clearly this plant's common name explains the main reason people grow it: namely, the bush's red twigs, which are brightest in winter.
No list of shrubs would be complete without including an evergreen or two. Hollies are broadleaf evergreens, famous for the bright red holly berries with which they festoon the winter yard. Cotoneasters also offer red berries but are deciduous.
There are all kinds of hollies, including the regal pair known as Blue Princess and Blue Prince. I tell you about several kinds in this article.
Gold Mops is one of the popular falsecypresses. Bearing golden foliage, these evergreens are especially useful when grown in conjunction with plants bearing so-called "black flowers
" (really a deep purple, in most cases) and/or dark leaves to create striking landscaping color schemes
. As evergreens, bushes such as Gold Mops offer year-round color for the yard.
Hardy hibiscus is the one plant I'm including on this list of shrubs not so much for its ability to help bring year-long color to the yard, as for its novelty (at least in northerly climes). For hardy hibiscus sports one of the largest blossoms you'll find among hardy plants in northern climates, earning it the nickname, "dinner-plate hibiscus."
Resources such as this list of shrubs are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the free resources available on my Landscaping site, which include: