Shrubs have numerous uses in the landscape, making the type of shrub you select a very important part of the decision if you hope to represent your site well. Shrubs may be used as an ornamental feature or specimen, a screen, a windbreak, a hedge, border or barrier. Growers should attempt to match the plant's needs with the conditions found at the site in order to get the best out of the shrub or bush, as a poor match can compromise the shrub's appearance and performance.
Evergreens provide interest by keeping their color and foliage throughout the year, although the Colorado State University Extension notes that "all evergreens lose some of their leaves each year." Evergreens may be broadleaved or narrow leaved, presenting needle-like foliage. Evergreens may be chosen for their height, function, foliage or overall appearance.
Rhododendrons offer showy flowers, while coniferous evergreens such as yews produce cones. Junipers demonstrate a scale-like foliage. Evergreens may add further interest through a weeping foliage habit -- as found on weeping hemlock -- or aromatic foliage, found in wormwood and rhododendrons. Winter foliage acts as a windbreak and snowbreak and provides cover for wildlife. Many evergreens also provide food for birds and animals.
One of the main attractions of deciduous shrubs involves the variety of their foliage. Deciduous leaves can provide colorful seasonally and offer less common foliage shades. According to the University of Illinois Extension, deciduous shrubs offer foliage in colors from variegated to green, purple, red, yellow, silver or white and fall colors of brown, green, orange, purple, red or yellow. Examples such as redtwig dogwood also have colorful bark that adds interest even when the plant has no leaves. Deciduous shrubs such as forsythia have a cane-type growth habit; witch hazel has a framework growth habit. These growth types may offer additional winter interest.
Flowering shrubs serve well as ornamental or specimen plants. They may produce flowers on the current year's or previous year's growth. The flowers provide fragrance and beauty that attracts attention and brings birds and butterflies to the area. Many flowering shrubs follow their spring and summer bursts of color with fruit in the fall.
For seasons when the shrubs lack flowers and foliage, the form of the shrub can offer interest. The University of Illinois Extension suggests Hypericum 'Sunburst' for flowers in July -- a time most other shrubs are not in bloom -- winterberry for winter fruit and oakleaf hydrangea for its colorful bark.
- Washington State University Clark County Extension: ONW Plants -- Evergreen Shrubs
- University of Illinois Extension: Homeowner's Column -- Beautiful Flowering Shrubs for Shade
- Iowa State University Extension: Pruning Ornamental Shrubs
- University of Illinois Extension: Selecting Shrubs for Your Home
- University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service: Plant of the Week -- Witch Hazel
- Colorado State University Extension: Evergreen Shrubs for Home Grounds
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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