The flower borders require constant attendance from early spring to late autumn. There are bulbs to be planted and replanted, or herbaceous perennials that require dividing every 2 to 5 years. Then there is fertilizing, mulching, watering, thinning, pruning, deadheading. Besides, many herbaceous flowering plants look good only for a certain period of time, while they are in bloom. After the flowers fade, they only sit there providing with greenery or go dormant until the next season.
Ornamental shrubs are much easier to look after – they are long lived, resistant to drought and cold, and retain their shape well after their reach their full maturity, remaining ornamental throughout the season. Compact shrubs are well suited to being planted in mixed borders – they require little maintenance, they do not encroach upon neighboring plants, while providing the flower bed with good structure, height and shape. Generally, a shrub 60-120cm wide would take as much space as 3 or 7 perennial herbaceous plants.
While choosing shrubs for the borders, their ultimate size, bloom time or foliage colour are not the only criteria to consider. The growth habit of a shrub is an equally important element of design. This is one of then main rules to keep in mind when designing a planting composition.
Shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) is a very popular plant. There are numerous cultivars offering blooms in a variety of colours. Their flowering extends from June to September and even later. They can attain height and width of 90cm, but more commonly they are kept smaller that this. The most beautiful varieties, although somewhat rare in trade, are ‘Red Robin’, ‘Orangeade’, ‘Mango Tango’ with scarlet, orange or bicolor flowers.
Japanese spireas (Spiraea japonica) are some of the most beautiful and maintenance-free small shrubs. They are compact, easy to prune and they retain their shape well. These spireas normally grow up to 60cm tall and 80cm wide, however, more often they are trimmed to a more compact shape. ‘Little Princess’, ‘Goldflame’, ‘Shirobana’, ‘Magic Carpet’, ‘Goldmound’ are all good choices for the flower borders. They all bloom abundantly, and cultivar ‘Shirobana’ is known for its bicolor flowers. ‘Goldflame’, ‘Magic Carpet’, ‘Little Princess’ and ‘Goldmound’ display colorful young shoots and leaves, which are especially prominent in spring.
The most recently introduced weigela (Weigela) cultivars ‘Minuet’ and ‘Midnight Wine’ grow no more than 1 m tall and wide. ‘Minuet’ leaves are edged in pink, and its flowers are pink. ‘Midnight Wine’ leaves are purple, while its blooms are dark pink. It flowers in June and reblooms again in August.
Boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens) prefer semi-shaded and sheltered growing spot.
Winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus) ‘Rudy Haag’ is a fairly new plant, and therefore still rather rare in trade. It grows into a beautiful, dense, cushion-shaped plant up to 90-150cm tall.
Kalm‘s St.Johnswort (Hypericum kalmianum) grows 60cm tall and 90cm wide. The foliage is glaucous blue and its yellow blooms appear in July or August.
February daphne (Daphne mezereum) ‘Ruby Glow’ grows to 80cm high and wide. Its dark pink flowers appear in early spring.
Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica) ‘Pleniflora’ grows 1,2-1,5 m tall and wide. Its fully double yellow blooms appear from June to August. ‘Variegata’ is a more compact cultivar, and it flowers less, but it is valued for the white-variegated leaves.
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergiii) is also suitable for planting in mixed borders. A number of cultivars – ‘Atropurpurea’ (1-1,2m tall), ‘Rose Glow’ (about 1m), ‘Green Carpet’ (up to 50cm), ‘Red Chief’ (1,5m) – have pendulous habit. All, apart from ‘Green Carpet’ display red or purple foliage.
Cutleaf stephanandra (Stephanandra incisa) growth habit is arching – its branches bend downwards under their weight. In autumn the shrub excibits magnificent orange red tints.
Grefsheim spirea (Spiraea x cinerea) ‘Grefsheim’ achieves 1-1,5m height with the same width. Its gracefully arching branches are weighted down with abundant white flowers in April and May.
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) ‘Helmond Pillar’ (1,5m) and ‘Red Pillar’ (1,2m) grow into handsome, shapely columns, slightly wider at the top. Their foliage is purple. ‘Sunjoy Gold’ is also an upright shrub, but its leaves are bright yellow. Cultivar “Erecta’ exibits foliage which is green or lime green.
Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) ‘Autumn Magic’ grows 1,5m tall and 1m wide. This is a wide upright-growing shrub, with white blooms in spring, which turn by autumn into black berries. The leaves are green and glossy during the season, turning brilliant red in autumn.
Mock orange (Philadelphus) ‘Miniatiure Snowflake’ grows no higher than 1,2m tall. It blooms in June with fully double white flowers.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) ‘Black Lace’ is a shrub or a small tree, which grows wider that it is tall. It usually attains 0,5-2m heigh. Foliage is purple and ferny. [banner]
Red-stemmed dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) ‘Flaviramea’ or ‘Arctic Fire’ are well suited to being planted in mixed borders, where they grow about 1,5m tall and wide. They are especially spectacular in winter, after the leaves have fallen, since their bright yellow or scarlet stems shine from afar.
© Giedra Bartas, 2012