Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Shrubs of Substance

Sometimes there is a large, empty area in a garden that needs something substantial to fill it up. For one reason or another, a tree would be out of place. Perennials and ground covers would be too small to provide the required visual oomph. What is needed is one really big shrub to fill the space and bring some interesting form, flower or fragrance into the garden. Here are some possible choices.

Abelia grandiflora - Glossy abelia
Size: 8' tall x 5'+ wide
Comments: 'Edward Goucher' is a smaller variety, about 5' tall; evergreen; profuse lilac blooms late summer through early fall; arching habit. Do not shear this plant, allow it plenty of room to spread.
Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' - Compact strawberry tree
Size: 8' tall x 8' wide
Comments: Related to our native madrone tree; peeling, reddish bark; evergreen; clusters of white, bell-shaped flowers in spring; red fruit in fall resembling strawberries
Berberis buxifolia - Magellan barberry
Size: 6' tall x 6' wide
Comments: Evergreen; upright; orange flowers, purple berries
Camellia japonica - Camellia
Size: 10'+ tall and wide
Comments: Prefers some shade, although often grown in full sun; blooms in late winter; glossy green leaves; evergreen; can eventually be trained into a small tree
Ceanothus impressus - Santa Barbara ceanothus
Size: 7-10' tall x 10-15' wide
Comments: Dense, dark evergreen foliage; dark blue flower clusters; 'Julia Phelps' on of the best cultivars with very dark blue flowers; profuse bloom in spring
Choisya ternata - Mexican orange
Size: 6-8' tall and wide
Comments: Evergreen; clusters of fragrant white flowers in spring smell like orange blossoms; dense shrub
Cotoneaster lacteus (parneyi)
Size: 8' tall x 10' wide
Comments: Evergreen; tiny white flowers; heavy display of red berries; makes a good hedge or espallier
Escallonia spp.
Size: 5+ tall and wide depending on cultivar
Comments: E. 'Fradesii' gets 5-6' tall, evergreen with profuse rose pink bloom; E. 'Balfouri' gets up to 10' tall and wide with pink-tinged white flowers; E. 'Apple Blossom' 5' x 5', with white blossoms resembling apple blossoms
Osmanthus burkwoodii (also called Osmarea burkwoodii)
Size: 6' tall x 6' wide
Comments: Slow growing; evergreen; small fragrant white flowers in spring; useful as a hedge; full sun/part shade
Osmanthus delavay
Size: 4-6' tall x 6-8' wide
Comments: Evergreen; slow growing; graceful, arching branches; white, small fragrant flowers in spring
Pyracantha coccinea - Firethorn
Size: 8-10' tall and wide
Comments: Evergreen; can be trained along walls; valued for heavy clusters of red-orange berries that persists well into fall until birds eat them all; as name implies, plants are thorny
Raphiolepis indica 'Majestic Beauty' - India hawthorne
Size: to 10' tall and wide
Comments: Fragrant light pink flowers; can be shaped into small tree; evergreen; likes full sun
Viburnum plicatum tomentosum 'Mariesii' - Marie's doublefile viburnum
Size: 6-8' tall x 8-10' wide
Comments: Deciduous; layer branching pattern; large, white flowers line the tops of all the branches in spring; very showy and graceful; small red fruit starts red and turns black with age; good fall color
Viburnum tinus 'Spring Bouquet' or 'Pink Dawn'
Size: to 12' tall and wide
Comments: Likes full sun; evergreen; blooms fall into spring with clusters of tiny pink, slightly fragrant flowers; metallic blue fruit lasts until early summer
For more information on these shrubs and much, much more, get a copy of  The New Sunset Western Garden Book. This is the latest edition of this classic garden guide, released in February, 2012.