Even though we had those few incredible quasi summer days, I think we can all agree by now that it’s, well, Fall. Perennials and annuals are well and truly on their way out after a busy growing season. And thus our focus shifts to those quieter, maybe less glamorous, but certainly more steady garden friends. Shrubs, often relegated to the back seats by all those party-girl flowers, finally come center stage. They’re the garden’s backbones, its structure, they set the tone – and now is their golden hour. Make sure you give them a chance to shine by chosing the right shrub for the right location.
Evergreen or deciduous? Maybe with a dash of color?
One of the fun things about shrubs and small trees is that they are a fantastic way to extend the season and add color and interest to the fall and winter garden.
Many deciduous shrubs and small trees put on an amazing show of fall foliage. Oakleaf hydrangeas burst into a dark wine-red. The ‘Amber Jubilee’ Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Jefam’) will glow in a palette of rich, warm shades of gold and copper. Many viburnums turn a dark maron-purple. Fothergilla, commonly known as Witchalder, displays a whole range of reds, oranges, and yellows.
Evergreen shrubs, such as the ilex family or evergreen rhododendrons, will keep their foliage year round and are an eye-soothing green oasis in the drab winter landscape.
Opt for contrast with a splash of color: dark red winterberries (Ilex verticillata) or the striking crimson branches of red-twig dogwoods (Cornus sanguinea) invite the eye to linger.
But not only color can add interest to a winter garden. Shrubs and small trees come in all shapes and sizes. Many have distinct structural features, from vase-like, arching forms, to full bushes, and tall, columnar statements. Strategically placed, they provide a focal point in an otherwise barren yard. Choose the location wisely, taking light needs and soil conditions into account, and make sure the plant’s mature size and natural shape can find full expression in its designated spot.
If you – like me – already dread those long and dreary New England winter months, there’s still some time to plant shrubs NOW. Soil temperatures will stay warm for still a few weeks, even after air temperatures have plummeted – great conditions for root growth! The plant can focus fully on getting its root system established, without bothering with growing branches, twigs, and leaves.
The Green Thumb can help you plot and plant your fall and winter interest! Shoot us a line for any and all gardening questions!