5 Great Shrubs to Fill Up the Garden

by Gardening Coach Susan Harris

Lately I’ve heard from several gardeners who’ve been at it a while and seen big improvements, but there’s still something missing in their gardens – fullness.   And my quick answer is that the solution is shrubs and there are dozens of great ones that’ll do the job.  Shrubs can grow quickly to provide background plants for perennials.  And they make the space feel more livable by providing some enclosure – a feature that gardeners come to love once they have it.  On top of all that, when it’s their turn to bloom, these shrubs take center stage in any border.

Doublefile viburnum

Doublefile viburnum

So without further ado, here are some of my favorite flowering shrubs that help make a yard look like a garden.  I’ve provided links to my web page for each one, for all the details.

The doublefile viburnum is sometimes called the best-looking viburnum of all and this ‘Shasta’ variety is certainly easy on the eye (though there are dozens of great viburnums for the garden).   The doublefile is almost as tall as a dogwood and blooms at the same time.  It really needs no care except some renewal pruning after they’re a few years old.  My method is to remove a third of the stems to the ground after they’ve bloomed, and they respond well to it.

Weigela 'White Knight' and Common

Above are just two of the many weigelas filling up my garden.   Also easy-care, they have the added feature of growing really fast.   I’ve been happy to see more great varieties of weigela available lately – people need more plants like these that are as close to self-sustaining as you’ll find.

Bridal Wreath Spirea

Spireas are another group of shrubs that breeders are working with, and we’re seeing amazing new varieties these days – lots of shorter types, and an array of chartreuse-leaved beauties.  This is the old-fashioned bridal wreath type doing great work as a foundation plant, if I do say so myself.  Even in the winter when the leaves are bare, it has a large woody presence.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Another fast-grower is this oakleaf hydrangea.  In addition to the virtues you see here, its exfoliating bark makes it a focal point all winter.  Seriously.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva'

And I couldn’t resist showing off one more hydrangea – the later-blooming ‘Tardiva’ that gardeners just don’t use enough.    Garden writers are touting its virtues – including the Washington Post’s Adrian Higgins – so we may be seeing more of them soon.  They’re larger and more drought-tolerant than the familiar mophead hydrangeas that bloom in pink and blue.

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