Shrubs interact with you on a human scale. If you are a plant nerd, you collect them. They provide definition to mulch beds, color for the eye, textural interest, and fragrance. They can cause big maintenance headaches if used incorrectly. It is unfathomable how much time and money and labor are spent with electric shears, attempting to chop shrubs into forms they were never meant to have!
With shrubs you can add variety to a landscape design. Shrubs come in all sorts of shapes—low ground covers, vases, balls, pyramids, rectangles, columns, tendril-ish masses, tall hedges, and leggy blobs. They come in all sorts of textures—delicate, fine, course, spiney, rough, smooth, and waxy. Most of them bloom at special times of the year, but some have year-long foliage color. It contrasts nicely with the typical green.
Shrubs can create a space or turn it into a weedy mess. The choices out there, if you are familiar with the hundreds of ornamental species, provide a wonderful palette for a professional landscape designer.
Shrubs are not a no/low-maintenance option! Just because you don’t mow them, doesn’t mean they are self-sufficient. They require some care, even when planted in tight masses. Creating a landscape without using any shrubs at all is actually the best option if you have no maintenance budget. You will hear a different pitch from a novice designer. They will tell you a ground cover mass of shrubs will create a no-maintenance plant bed, but they will be wrong. Weeds take advantage of the large spaces between shrubs in a landscape bed and can be difficult to remove, once entangled in the foliage. Hand weeding is a never-ending chore for a shrub bed.
The best way to design with shrubs is to separate them into categories by height, and then subcategories by shape, light, and water requirements. There are so many species from which to choose, you could subdivide them even more by color shades or texture. There are as many shrub choices as there are shoes at Zappos!
The following information is here to help you make sense of it all, and to choose and configure ornamental shrubs wisely. We would love to hear your comments on your favorites and why.
Coming soon, an eBook filled with insider tips you can use for intelligent ornamental shrub use—The Advanced Guide to Shrubs. It will help you choose plants like a landscape professional.
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