Recommended Shrub Varieties for the Garden


This section is devoted to shrubs and their various uses, of which there are plenty. Some shrubs give you double value as they are useful in more than one category.



A hardy evergreen foliage shrub; will grow almost anywhere, in dense shade and any soil, and if planted in numbers will make a close- knit plantation.



See Rhododendron below


Berberis – Barberry

Barberries are rather thorny, good for hedging and will grow anywhere that is not too damp.

Some are evergreen, notably Berberis stenophylla, which has orange flowers. They will grow to about 2m (6ft).


Buddleia – Butterfly bush


buddleia davidii This one grows very fast and produces wonderful flower spikes in the course of a season. For best results prune hard back in spring: at first you won’t believe it can recover so quickly! Buddleia davidii is one of the best known species: ‘Royal Red’ one of its finest forms. They all grow above head height and are a wonderful stand-by as they prosper in poor soil.



One of the heathers, this is excellent for ground cover, and naturally dislikes lime. Most of them bear white flowers in late summer. ‘H. E. Beale’ has soft pink double flowers on long spikes, excellent for cutting.



Camellias are acid-soil subjects, usually flowering from March onwards. They are evergreen, and some will grow to about 3m (10ft). Most are hardy. The Camellia japonicas, or common camellias, are widely grown and one of the best is Camellia ‘Adolphe Audusson’, with glorious blood-red blooms. Camellia ‘Apollo’, red and white, is another excellent variety. Most camellias are in shades of red, but ‘Royal White’ is perhaps the best white. Camellias are especially useful against a north wall, where they are protected from the surprisingly dangerous spring morning sun.


Ceanothus – Californian lilac


ceanothus Perhaps it is fortunate that this is intended to be largely a personal chronicle, for I need make no secret of my regard for this shrub. Wonderful blue flowers will last all summer until the frosts. Some are a deep blue — Ceanothus burkwoodii is one —but most are of a paler colour. Bees love them: two friends were talking (or trying to) near a shrub and one turned to me and asked, quite seriously, ‘Can’t you stop those bees? We can’t hear ourselves speak!’ Gloire de Versailles’ produces perhaps the most spectacular show of flowers, but there is little to choose between any of them. This one is deciduous; most are evergreen. Ceanothus Cascade is well named for its long flower stem, bright blue. In some districts this is evergreen in a mild winter. Ceanothus thyrsiflorus, also bright blue, believed to be the oldest in cultivation, is a very hardy one. They prefer a south wall and will grow in any well drained soil.



Known by a wealth of other names — cydonia, japonica and quince — this is one of the finest of spring-flowering shrubs. The host of varieties makes selection very difficult. ‘Hearn’s Pink Dawn’ is one of the lesser-known ones but well worth trying to get. It is a double, but many others are single flowered. Flowers are mostly in pink or red. Some varieties produce fruits —these are delicately perfumed, and excellent for flavouring or jam-making, but not for serving on their own.


Cistus – Evergreen rock rose

cistus x purpureus Most of these grow to between 60 and 120cm (2 and 4ft). Most offer white or pink flowers around midsummer. One of the hardiest is Cistus laurifolius: white flowers with a yellow centre and dark green leaves, reaching up to 2m (6ft). I wonder if that phrase about wasting sweetness on the desert air was prophetic about Cistus x purpureus. This hybrid won an award a little over fifty years ago, but it has been with us for nearly 200 years! If you are curious as to the reason for the delay, get one, watch its crimson and chocolate flowers (admittedly, not a very attractive sounding combination) unfurl and then make your decision. You will probably be as puzzled as I am! Clematis


There are so many varieties that it is really impossible to give more than a scant appraisal. They appear in nearly every colour, even yellow (Cistus orientalis). Chief among the whites are Cistus enryi, ‘Miss Bateman’, and ‘Marie Boisselot’. The blues include ‘Lady Betty Balfour’, ‘Lasurstern’, ‘The President’ and Cistus jackmanii (all dark), and ‘Lady Northcliffe’ and ‘Mrs Hope’ (light). Reds are headed by ‘Ville de Lyon’, ‘Barbara Jackman’ and ‘Vyvyan Pennell’, with ‘Gipsy Queen’ superb among the purples, and `Comtesse de Bouchaud’ and ‘Nelly Moser’ leading the pinks. Keep them well tied in, so that their heavy flower heads have some support. They like sun, but it is generally accepted that the roots need shading.

‘Clematis wilt’ is a mystery disease that cuts down many young plants for a year or so, and then they appear to recover. As far as I am aware there is no known reason, and no real preventative, but I wonder if conditions have something to do with it. In one garden I was forever plagued with it, but in my present one I have so far gone three years without trouble. I have followed an old dodge by giving them plenty of water, which may account for the improvement.


Cornus mas – Cornelian cherry

Comes to life in early spring with yellow flowers on its bare twigs. Being one of the dogwoods, it will have coloured leaves and bark in autumn. The cherries are edible, if you can beat the birds to them!



One of the most widely grown shrubs, usually as ground cover or hedges. It is tolerant of almost any condition and offers a magnificent show of berries in autumn. Most are evergreen. Cotoneaster dammeri, very low-growing indeed, and Cotoneaster horizontalis, about 1m (3ft) high are probably the best known. Both have white flowers in May, with red berries in autumn. Cotoneaster dammeri is evergreen.


Cytisus – Broom

Broom is a familiar sight everywhere. It demands sun but will accept most soil conditions except extreme chalk. Take your pick from a dozen or more. They differ in size but most of them are yellow or golden in flower, chiefly in spring, though some appear in summer. Cytisus purpureus, as the name suggests, is purple-flowered.


Daphne mezereum

One of the best known spring-flowering shrubs, which has sweet-scented purplish flowers in February/March. It also produces fruits, but don’t eat them — they are poisonous.



An easy-to-grow shrub, flourishing almost everywhere, and mostly flowering in June, very prolifically. I think ‘Mont Rose’ is the best, with very deep pink flowers, bordering on purple.



An evergreen foliage shrub, averaging about 1.5m (5ft). Elaeagnus ebbengei has grey-green leaves; Elaeagnus pungens maculata will retain golden leaves through the winter.


Erica – Cape heather

There are so many heathers you could probably fill an acre with one plant of each popular variety, planted closely, and still have plenty left over. And what a wonderful display you would have! We automatically think of Scotland and the peat lands, but they are not all peat-lovers. Some of the Erica cornea varieties — on the whole the best known — are lime-tolerant. You can get them in shades of red, pink and white, all ground-hugging and flowering mostly through the winter. Erica carnea itself generally appears in February, with a profusion of lovely deep purple flowers. The many varieties of Erica calluna and Erica cinerea form the bulk of the traditional acid-loving plants in an even wider range of colour, though much the same size individually. Most of them are late summer-flowering.



Escallonias will make you hedges or individual bushes. They are fast-growing, and excellent for seaside gardens. An assortment of pink, red or crimson flowers is yours, according to choice of variety. Apart from the glory of their blooms, they keep their leaves through the winter. ‘Apple Blossom’ and ‘Donard Seedling’ are about the best.



Euonymus europaeus is the familiar spindle shrub.

Euonymus e. atropurpureus turns from purple to a vivid red in autumn, with crimson fruits. They thrive in chalk.



This is a shrub that seems to thrive in any conditions. Its mass of little yellow flowers appearing before the leaves is always a glorious sight on an early spring day. The most prolific is probably Forsythia intermedia ‘Lynwood’, about 1.5m (5ft) tall; the flowers are excellent for cutting.



There is — or was — a widespread belief that fuchsias are essentially plants for indoors, or at best in well-sheltered spots. That may apply to some, but most are perfectly capable of withstanding a pretty hard winter. ‘Mrs Popple’ is one that comes to mind as being particularly independent of shelter. Although their bell-like flowers differ slightly in shape and colour, all fuchsias have this unusual and graceful ‘ballet dancer’ effect. The colours range mainly from pink to deep purple. They are extremely adaptable. Most will grow indoors or out; they will fill a hanging basket, form weeping standards on a lawn or climb wherever you wish, up to about 6m (20ft). If buying, try to spend half a day at a specialist nursery. You will find them irresistible and undoubtedly will come away with more than you had intended to buy! Many of the popular modern hybrids are descended from the tender

Fuchsia fulgens, one of the first fuchsias to be introduced. Frequently, cuttings taken in September will reach full stature within a year.


Garrya elliptica

One of the most gracefully unusual evergreens, famous for its catkins. Given a sunny, well drained spot it will grow well over 2m (6ft). It never needs pruning, except for a little thinning, and bears a profusion of green and pink-edged catkins all through early spring.


Hamamelis – Witch hazel

This is mainly winter-flowering with clusters of fragrant yellow bloom: very prolific, very fragrant, and very unusual in the peculiar twisted form of the petals. Makes a good colourful picture amid a bed of ericas. Hamamelis mollis is the best known.




hebe speciosa gauntletii A fast-growing evergreen, known as veronica until comparatively recently. ‘Blue Gem’ is a good hedging plant, low-growing and showing plenty of bright blue flower. It is an excellent seaside plant, given some shelter. There are several varieties, most of them around 1m (3ft) in height, usually showing white flowers, though there are some blues and a few purple. An exception, and a very good one, is ‘Great Orme’, with bright pink flowers and long, tapering leaves.


Hedera – Ivy

Ivy once had an old wives’ tale reputation for being damaging to the house walls to which it clings. With the proviso that it may help a crumbling one further along the road to ruin, this can now be refuted. It will grip but not harm its host. It is very hardy and very tough: one of my so far unfulfilled tasks has been to open up a view along the garden by removing an old ivy-covered fence, for I haven’t the heart. The ivy is tough, but by no means unpleasant. It has a splendid little flower, totally insignificant until you get close to it, and I am not convinced that its removal would improve the view, so it will stay. I don’t know for certain, but I suspect that my guest is Hedera colchica, with big, dark green leaves and obvious determination to live to be a hundred!

There is another common ivy, Hedera c. variegata, where the leaves are variegated, having yellow on the edge. This is good as a ground-cover plant. A further type, Hedera helix, has a gold overtone; in this category, though with a somewhat different colour scheme, comes Hedera h. Glacier, with white and grey-green leaves.


Hibiscus – Tree mallow

Well known as a perennial, but also an excellent shrub, it is known as the tree mallow to distinguish it from the herbaceous variety. The shrub version is late-flowering, from August to September. A majestic plant, whether used solo or in borders, and ideal for use in tubs. Flowers are mainly red or blue. ‘Blue Bird’ is perhaps the best of them. ‘Red Heart’ is white with a maroon centre, and ‘Woodbridge’ is a bold crimson. You may also know it as the tree hollyhock. It will grow to about 2m (6ft).




hydrangea macrophylla mariesii This is one of those rare plants for which deadheading is a crime. The secret of continued success is to let the old faded flower head remain on the stem as long as possible — even in its dead and dried state it does not look repulsive — the purpose of this exercise being to protect the young buds from frost, to which they are susceptible. The sacrifice of neatness is well repaid, for hydrangea blooms must rank among the most magnificent of all.

It is largely true that the colour of your flowers will depend on the type of soil in which they are growing. Broadly, you will get blue flowers on acid or peaty soil, and pink ones on lime. But there are some white ones, which presumably thrive on neutral soils and change their colour if they go slightly over the border! Most of them are the familiar globular flowers, the hortensia varieties, but there are the dainty lacecaps, with smaller flowers on a flatter surface and different colours in the centre. All flower from midsummer, some well into autumn, and they are glorious as cut blooms. There is a rich vein from which to make a selection, but you have to be a little careful. The Hydrangea macrophylla varieties, embracing both hortensia and lacecaps, do not like a strongly limy soil. One of the best of these is ‘Hamburg’, which is normally a deep pink, but will be a rich blue on a fairly acid soil; its flowers last well into autumn. Hydrangea maniesii is a lacecap, with very large pink flowers, and one of the most spectacular is Hydrangea villosa, a bicoloured blue/lavender, which seems to keep its colour in whatever soil it is grown.


Hypericum – St John’s wort

Hypericum is wonderful for ground cover, especially Hypericum calycinum, or rose of Sharon. This has almost everything you could want: deep green foliage, splendid yellow flowers, dense and quite rapid carpet-style growth — and it is evergreen; It flowers in early summer, and is followed by Hypericum elatum ‘Elstead’, whose later yellow flowers appear as the first ones have set bright red seed pods.


Ilex – Holly

This is, of course, an evergreen. Not all carry berries, and a few are not prickly. Berries are invariably on female plants, and an oddity of nomenclature is that the ‘Golden King’ variety is female and ‘Golden Queen’ is a male, with only green-grey and yellow leaves to give it regal distinction.


Jasminum – Jasmine

One of our sweetest-scented climbers. Jasminum nudiflorum is the winter jasmine, with bright yellow bell-like flowers showing around Christmas time; Jasminum officinale is the white-flowered summer version.


Lavandula – Lavender

This is a low-growing shrub, especially useful as a border plant, and traditional for lining a cottage garden. You can use it in clumps in a border or along a wall. It will accept poor, dry soil and in fact welcomes a sunny and warm spot. It is essentially a midsummer plant, and shows only slight variations of colour. Lavandula spica is the traditional ‘Mitcham’ blue.


Lonicera – Honeysuckle


lonicera x tellmanniana How fortunate we are in the number of our perfumed shrubs! Although the honeysuckle is renowned for its summer perfume — not unlike that of azalea — it is not well enough known that there is a very fragrant winter-flowering variety, L purpusii – short-growing, with white flowers. Best of the climbers is surely Lonicera periclymenum, the common honeysuckle or woodbine that is a feature of the hedgerows for three months in summer. There are some hybrids, one of the best of which is Lonicera tellmanniana, with huge clusters of good-sized flowers; it prefers some shade.


Magnolia x soulangiana

Magnificent waxy white blooms, with a lemony perfume: a most gracious early-flowering shrub. Try to give it some protection: I have seen twenty or thirty blooms ruined overnight by one of those treacherous spring frosts. Magnolia stellata, slightly smaller, is even earlier with glorious freely-borne white blooms in March.


Mahonia aquifolium – Oregon grape

This one likes some shade. It produces bright yellow flowers in and around March and ‘grapes’ in autumn, when you may also get some foliage colour. An evergreen.


Olearia – Daisy bush

A really tough evergreen, so named because of its small daisy-like flowers – a good seaside plant that also makes up into a fine hedge. Flowers appear in late summer.



This is the tree paeony, the shrubby version of the perennial. It thrives in limy soil. Try Paeonia lutea ludlowii, which has beautiful yellow flowers in spring.


Parthenocissus – Virginia creeper

A lovely, almost universal, climber that brings such richness to house walls as summer nears its end. Parthenocissus quinquefolia is nominally self-clinging, but I have found that a little help in the early stages enables it to get away much faster.


Philadelphus – Mock orange


philadelphus This is often wrongly called syringa (which is lilac). It has sweet-scented flowers, mainly white or cream. One of the most attractive is Philadelphus microphyllus, a dwarf growing to about I m (3ft) and bearing white flowers in profusion.



An attractive evergreen. There are several varieties, some with red foliage in spring. They are distinguished by their lily of the valley flowers; very fragrant, and one of the most welcome of all spring-flowering plants. Most of them bloom in April; Pieris taiwanensis may show bloom in March.



This is sometimes known as the shrubby cinquefoil, because its flowers have five circular petals. It is almost without exception yellow-flowered, running in succession from May to October. It makes an excellent low-growing border shrub, seldom above 1m (3ft) high. Potentilla fruticosa grandiflora and Potentilla fruticosa ‘Katherine Dykes’ are good for hedges.


Pyracantha – Firethorn

One of the most spectacular climbing shrubs, its great falls of vivid red berries showing up vividly against any wall. It has pleasant cream flowers in spring, but the effect of these is insignificant compared with the berries.



This is a large family, which includes azaleas and rhodoras. Varieties can be either deciduous or evergreen and tall or very low-growing. They all like damp soil and shade. R. praecox is a dwarf which flowers early. ‘Pink Pearl’, a famous and rather large bloom in the ‘orthodox’ hybrid range, comes a little later and there is a flood of them from May onwards. Azaleas come at about the same time with their haunting sweet fragrance. All hate lime, but the dwarfs can be grown in tubs.



Notable as a foliage shrub, with some striking red-yellow and orange effects from midsummer. Not very tall, mostly under 2m (6ft). Rhus cotinus is known as the smoke plant because of its feathery flower formation. Rhus typhina, the stag’s horn sumach, is frequently sold as a tree, and a fast-growing one.


Sambucus – Elder

A familiar but underrated shrub which is a fine source of flowers and berries for wine. A fast grower, it will quickly reach 4m (2ft).


Syringa – Lilac

An old garden favourite, seen almost everywhere in May and June. It prefers chalk, but will survive happily in most soils, and does best in a sunny spot. Mainly white or purple, it is strongly perfumed. Syringa vulgaris, the common lilac, is said to be the parent of more hybrids than any other shrub: about 500.


Tamarix – Tamarisk

This is a rather straggly, feathery plant, delicate and graceful, but delicate only in appearance, for it is one of the most doughty resisters of seaside gales and spray. It grows to 2m (6ft) and has masses of small pink flowers. To prevent it becoming too straggly, cut hard back in spring. Tamarix pentandra is about the best of the dozen or so varieties available.




Viburnum opulus One of the greatest of our entire range, both in numbers and attraction. Between them they offer flowers and/or berries and/or perfume all the year round. Some reach 2m (6ft). Viburnum opulus is also known as the guelder rose. Beautiful white scented flowers in late spring give place in autumn to clusters of red berries and maple-colour foliage. It is also known as the water elder because it thrives in a damp situation.

Viburnum x burkwoodii, one of the first to bloom, provides fragrant pink-white flowers in May. It is an evergreen. Viburnum tinus is another evergreen, producing pinkish-white flowers in winter.

Viburnum davidii, a good all-the-year-rounder, is also evergreen, with summer flowers and frequently blue berries in winter.



Last, but by no means least, in this section. Who has not gasped in admiration at the sight of an old house covered with its lovely blue blooms in early summer? Essentially a climber, it can reach between 6 and 9m (20 and 30ft) quite comfortably. Best known is probably Wisteria sinensis, the Chinese wisteria, with fragrant deep blue or mauve flowers. Plant one at the front of your house and you will increase its selling value immediately!

28. April 2011 by admin
Categories: Plants, Trees and Shrubs | Tags: , | Comments Off on Recommended Shrub Varieties for the Garden


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