Shrubs and Garden Design
Shrubs and garden design
There are many things for which the Victorians are accountable, and one of them is the legacy of dark, dank, unhappy dripping shrubs clustered gloomily round the front door, effectively cutting off sunshine and air, and serving as a launching pad for spiders and beetles en route to the interior of the house.
Another picture often conjured up by the word ‘shrubs’ is of a stunted and dusty little collection of bushes, much too close together, with occasional, rather insipid-looking flowers at the ends of long, thin stems, appearing at rare intervals throughout the summer.
Advantages of shrubs
Nothing could be further from the real picture. In fact, shrubs are amongst the mostplants that there are. The flowers of many are of special beauty with attractive colouring and, often, distinctive shape. Many, too, have delightful scent. It is perfectly possible to have shrubs in flower all the year round, from January to December, even in a small garden.
A good many shrubs have a bonus, or additional merit, besides flowers. One of these is the colour that the leaves of various kinds turn before leaf-fall. The reds, oranges, yellows and intermediate shades between them, taken on by the foliage in autumn, are as colourfully satisfying as any of the hues of their flowers.
In addition to autumn colouring, there are shrubs with permanent leaves, that is, the evergreens, whose leaves may be plain green, sprinkled with yellow or streaked with white, they may be ‘evergrey’, with grey, silvery or grey-green leaves — these sorts are extremely useful, either in their own right, or as foils for other plants — or they may be blotched with purple or pink, asofficinalis purpurascens and Parthenocissus henryana are.
Then, too, there are the berries and fruits. The large, golden quinces of japonica, the bright red berries of cotoneaster, the red and black fruits of viburnum species, and the long smoky-blue pods of Decaisnea fargesii are just a few examples of how wide-ranging the colours of fruits are, to say nothing of the interesting and varied shapes they can be. In addition they may last from autumn into and through the winter, and still be on the plant when the new season’s leaves or flowers start to unfold.
Scent is anothervirtue and can vary from the heavy aroma of the syringa and the Mexican orange blossom, choisya, and the mock orange, philadelphus, almost soporific in their strength, through the less-powerful honeysuckles and lavender to the lighter and more elusive ones of buddleia and cytisus.
Along with these obvious merits of colour, scent and beauty of form, shrubs have practical assets too. Provided one or two golden rules of planting are remembered, they will thrive for many years with a good deal less attention than aor would require; moreover, plant for plant they will cover considerably more ground. A good start, attention to pruning, regular and an occasional application of a concentrated (depending on the soil), are mostly all that will have to be done; bugs and blights, that is, pests and diseases, are few, while there is the pleasure, over many years, of watching the shrub grow bigger and more beautiful.