The Shrub Border Deciduous Shrubs

Shirley Lindsey
Adams County Master Gardener

Carefully selecting and placing shrubs in the landscape can unify the total design of a property. Deciduous shrubs lose their foliage in the fall; evergreen ones do not. They come in a wide variety of heights, shapes, foliage colors, textures and forms. Taking these factors into consideration when selecting shrubs can result in a landscape that is both aesthetic and functional. Shrubs can serve as border plants, accent plants with seasonal color or as screening for privacy.

Determining which shrubs to include in your garden can be a difficult decision. Depending on choices made, shrubs may come to take up a majority of the space available on an average size lot. The best way to make wise choices is to find a good resource and check out plant material available at local nurseries. Many shrubs are currently available in smaller sizes. Note that plants native to the area where you live will be easier to grow and maintain. Here are a few of my favorites:

Glossy abelia is a delightful shrub. It is exceptionally easy to grow. If necessary, it can be cut back to emerge again just as beautiful. Although it leafs out later than some shrubs, the glossy leaves and dainty pink blossoms stay for most of the summer.

Clethra, also called summersweet, is another delightful plant. The fragrant white flowers come mid to late summer. The blossoms are small but form on 3 to 6 inch spikes. This shrub is very adaptable to a variety of light conditions. It prefers acid soil, and the leaves turn yellow to golden brown in autumn.

Callicarpa or beauty berry bush is a plant the may seem very plain for most of the year. The flowers in mid-summer are a non-descript white or pink and almost hidden by the foliage. But it shows off in the fall when clusters of lilac colored berries form all along the stems. These last long after the leaves fall. This is a shrub that can easily be kept at 4 to 6 feet in height and width. If necessary, it can be cut to within 6 inches of the ground in the spring before growth starts.

Calycanthus or Carolina Allspice grows well in our area. The blossom, which comes in late spring, is a dark reddish brown. It has the lovely fragrance of strawberries. This plant can grow 6 to 9 feet high and just as wide but can be cut back and kept to a manageable size. For the best flower production, remove 1/3 of the stems each spring.

Deutzia has tiny white 5-petaled flowers in mid to late spring, but there are so many blossoms that the bush appears totally white. Deutzia usually grows 3 or 4 feet in height and width. It can be used as a hedge. It adapts to almost any soil type and thrives in sun or partial shade. Prune after it blooms.

Lilacs come in many varieties. There are doubles or single blossoms. You will find white, pink and all shades of purple. There are dwarf varieties. They grow under almost any condition, although they flower best in full sun. And best of all the fragrance really spells spring for many gardeners.

Viburnums are another great choice. This large group of plants numbers about 120 species and contains numerous cultivars. They range in size from 2-3 feet to 30 feet, in odor from the sweetest perfume to the most unpleasant smell, in flower from white to pink (rose) and in fruit color from yellow, orange, red, pink, blue and black.

An excellent resource on shrubs available from Penn State Extension is Special Circular #241, A Guide for Selecting Shrubs for Pennsylvania Landscapes. This booklet lists shrubs according to mature size and growth habit, fall color, fruit color, bark interest, and several other aspects. It is well worth looking at if you are planning to plant shrubs in the future. A copy is available free of charge at the Adams County Extension Office on the Old Harrisburg Road in Gettysburg.

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