Thursday, April 16, 2015

10+ Favourite Shrubs

There were moments during the bleak, cold days of early April when I thought that spring would never arrive, but daffodils are poking up out of the ground and blooms are surely only days away. At last long last, spring is here! 

Shrubs have been on my mind as a prune away any dead, diseased or crossing branches in the garden. Here is just a sampling of what I think are the prettiest shrubs available:

Double Flowering Almond, Prunus triloba:
Is a member of the Rosaceae family and is actually a small deciduous tree. It has a vase shape and double pink flowers in early spring. Note: branches are good for forcing indoors.
Height: up to 12' Spread: 12' USDA Zones: 4-8

Double Flowering Almonds can be planted in a range of soils in sun, part-shade and shade. (Mine is in part-shade.)

Care and Pruning: 
Borers can be a problem, so keep your tree healthy and strong to resist attack from these pests. Make sure your Double Flowering Almond has a regular application of some fertilizer and is watered during periods of extended drought. Other pests and problems include Black knot which can cause black swelling of the branches. Foliage is susceptible to powdery mildew, so locate your tree in a area with good air circulation. Do any pruning after your shrub flowers in late spring.

Deutzia x lemoinei 'Compacta': has an upright habit and white flowers in spring. Plant it in sun to part-shade in average garden soil. It likes growing conditions to be on the moist side. Height: 4-6', Spread: the same. USDA Zones: 4-8. No serious diseases or problems. Prune in spring after flowering.

A Lilac in a private garden in Georgetown, ON

What's a garden without at least one lilac bush? I inherited several lilac bushes when we bought the house and have added more. The one I want to highlight today is a Dwarf Korean Lilac. Why? The fragrance of the flowers is simply amazing!
Dwarf Korean Lilac bloom in late spring with showy clusters of pale lavender flowers. The one I have in the front garden is almost ten years old and is just under 5'. Dwarf Korean Lilac can also be found as grafted standards. 
Height: 4-5', Spread: 4-5'. USDA Zones: 4-8.

Planting a Lilac: 
Plant a Dwarf Korean Lilac in early spring in well-drained soil. They do not like wet feet. Choose a sunny location that gets at least 4 to 6 hours of sun.

Pruning & Care:
A Dwarf Korean Lilac should only require watering during periods of drought. Lilacs are susceptible to powdery mildew, but I haven't had a big problem with powdery mildew so far.

I find my Dwarf Korean Lilacs requires less pruning than traditional lilacs. They bloom on growth from the previous year, so do any pruning after they flower in spring. Remove dead flowers and any diseased or crossing branches. After that, do a little pruning so the shrub keeps a nice shape.

A Fothergilla from the Toronto Botanical Gardens

Dwarf Fothergilla: A big reason this shrub makes it onto my list of favourites is that it provides 3 seasons of interest: white bottle-brush blooms in spring, green leaves in summer and orange leaves in fall. And it's also fragrant. Height: 2-6' depending on the cultivar. Spread: 4'-6'. USDA Zones: 5-8

Plant a Dwarf Fothergilla in early spring in moist, well-drained slightly acidic soil. Sun or light shade.

Pruning & Care:
Prune primarily to maintain a nice shape after it flowers in spring.

My garden in June.

Weigela: is a classic shrub. My Mom had an old fashioned pink Weigela that was as dependable as you could ever wish for. The height may vary according to the cultivar you chose. Some Weigela can reach as high as 10' and spread about the same. They like full sun and will grow in a range of soil types, but like so many plants, they prefer well-drained conditions. Prune them after they flower in spring. USDA Zones: 4-8.

Potentilla: Like Spirea, Potentilla have a bad rap from their overuse in commercial landscaping, where they can look a bit dusty and forlorn. One of the reasons they are used in this type of setting is because they are tough as old boots. They can handle heat, drought and poor soil.

I have a white Potentilla and it is just the loveliest shrub. It starts blooming in June and continues to bloom into early fall. Think past the familiar yellow potentilla you see everywhere because, they also come in: white, pink, orange and red. Potentilla like poor soil and full sun. They flower on new wood, so I prune mine after the first flush of flowers in spring. Height and spread depend on the cultivar. My white Potentilla is about 3.5' x 4' and is vase shaped. USDA Zones: 2-7.

My garden in June.

Beauty Bush, Kolkwitzia: This is a really pretty shrub. A Beauty Bush has a fountain shape with branches that hang in long, sweeping arcs. Height: 8-10', Spread: 8-10' USDA Zones: 5-9.

Plant a Beauty Bush in full sun in average garden soil.

Pruning and Care: 
A Beauty Bush has no major pests or diseases. This shrub blooms on old wood so prune in spring after it flowers. Cut old canes to the ground to renew the shrub.

Golden Mock Orange, Philadelphus coronarius 'Aureus' is a compact shrub with fragrant white flowers. The foliage starts off quite yellow and becomes greener over the summer. This shrub has an upright spreading habit and can be grown in moderately fertile, well-drained soil. Full sun to light shade. Prune after flowering as necessary and mature branches by one-third on older shrubs. Height: 6-10' Spread: 6-10' USDA Zones: 3b-8.

Golden Mock Orange has wonderfully fragrant flowers.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Quick Fire': The thing I like best about this hydrangea cultivar is its amazing transitions in color. The buds and first flowers are white. Then they blush into a deep rose.

Finally the rose fades into a warm beige in fall. Height: 4-5', Spread: the same. USDA Zones: 4-8.

Planting: Hydrangea paniculata 'Quick Fire' likes full sun and good loamy soil, but it will happily put up with average garden soil.  This cultivar is not as water dependant as some hydrangeas and will tolerate some drought.

Pruning:  Flowers are produced on new wood. Prune 'Quick Fire' in late winter or early spring.

Rose of Sharon, Althea
Despite being a magnet for Japanese Beetles, I can't imagine being without a Rose of Sharon. They begin to flower in the heat of summer long after most other shrubs have packed it in. 
Flower colors include blue, pink, lavender, and white. Bees and hummingbirds love Rose of Sharon. One drawback is their tendency to self-seed prolifically. 
Height: 8'-12', Spread: 6'-12'. USDA Zones: 5-11

A long view just to give you an idea of shape and size.

My Rose of Sharon
Plant them in rich, well-drained soil in sun or very light shade. Rose of Sharon like the soil to be somewhat moist. Too little water may cause buds to drop.

Pruning & Care:
Add a layer of compost in spring and cover it with mulch to help the soil retain its moisture. Water your Rose of Sharon if there is less than an inch of rainfall in a given week. Rose of Sharon shouldn't require much pruning. They flower on the current year's growth, so prune for shape in early spring before leaf buds open.


Ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius 'Dart's Gold': Most often these days you see Ninebark with dark burgundy or copper foliage being featured, so I thought I would highlight a golden-green Ninebark instead. 'Dart's Gold' has maple leaf-like foliage that start off in spring as a golden yellow and then ages into a deep lime-green over the summer. This shrub has small white flowers in clusters.
Height: 5-6', Spread: about the same. USDA Zones: 3-8.

Planting: Golden Ninebark needs full sun to very light shade (at least 6 hours of sun). Average garden soil is fine. Water regularly until your shrub is established.

Pruning: Reinvigorate the shrub each spring by removing some of the older branches at the base. Other than that, prune it after its flowers to maintain its shape.

What do you think? Are there any other shrubs that should have been added to my list?


  1. Hi, I love your blog! I'm an avid gardener and your photos are beautiful and inspiring. I was hoping you could tell me the name of the purple flower in front of your Potentilla bush? I think it's the same flower I've seen growing wild alongside country roads. I'd love to add it to my garden, but I don't know the name. Thanks much - Kim

    1. There are two different types of purple flowers that snuck into my pictures, but I think you are asking about Sweet Rocket or Dame's Rocket. It self-seeds itself everywhere in my garden. Sweet Rocket is a biennial. Plant it in summer to bloom the following year. One nice thing about the flowers is they are nicely fragrant. I find that It get a bit messy looking and is prone to mildew when it finishes flowering, so I yank most of it out. I always manage to miss enough plants for the Rocket to reseed itself for next summer.

    2. Oh and you should be able to find seeds at a good nursery.

    3. Thank you so much!! I will look for seeds this weekend.

  2. I am happy spring has finally come to you! A lovely collection of flowering shrubs. I love Rose of Sharon and it does pretty well here in Houston except when we have one of those rare hard freezes that last for days. I love Mock Orange but have never seen the Golden one. So lovely! Happy spring!

  3. So many lovely photo's.

    I like them all especially Lilac and Weigela. Made me feel happy just looking at your lovely photo's, thank you.

    All the best Jan

  4. Everything is BEAUTIFUL..Waiting for Spring to be spring here in Central WI. Your photos make me want it right now..Soon....pretty soon..

  5. So many of my favorites including weigela, lilac, hydrangea and Deutzia...

  6. Lovely pictures as usual.
    In my old garden in Kitchener Golden Mock Orange did beautifully. There is no smell I like better. Here I have had one for 5 years but somehow it is not doing much. It is not dying but not growing either. This year I plan to fertilize it more and give it a good mulch. Perhaps I should just buy a new plant.

  7. Great list!! And I'm glad to say that I have a number of these. My favourite is an old beauty bush which was on the property when we moved here. It puts on a spectacular show in June. Love it!
    Don't have a mock orange and think I need to get one!

  8. What a heavenly list! I love them all but especially the mock orange, I have killed

  9. This is a super post. I have wanted to plant some bushes and you have given me lots of great ideas. My neighbour has mock orange bushes and they smell divine! Thank you so much!!

  10. A great post, Jennifer, and one I am going to bookmark for future reference. I have a spot where I want to plant a few new shrubs this season, so this is so timely. I only wish Fothergilla was happier in my garden--I finally had to give up on mine and pull it out. One small shrub I have that I would also recommend is Itea, which also has three seasons of interest.

  11. I have a few of these in the garden - my favourite are the Deutzia and Mock Orange (except I don't particularly favour the gold leaf in your picture - sorry). Shrubs are a very personal choice aren't they - thankfully I don't have room for any more so I don't have to worry about finding space to accommodate them - although saying that my friend bought me a Daphne Odora for my birthday and they are notorious for dropping dead without warning - I am not sure what to do with it - it is still in its garden centre pot - any advice?

  12. You have so many of my favourite shrubs there, Kolkwitzia, Golden Philadelphus, to name just 2. This is the season for flowering shrubs and they add so much to the garden with their beautiful blossom.

  13. Thanks for the list and the photos and information. I am glad you included fothergilla, which is native in my area. It is a wonderful shrub that needs more publicity!

  14. I have several of these shrubs but really want a ninebark. I wish they made teeny tiny ones I could stuff in a pot. Fabulous list!

  15. Great post and very informative Jennifer. Your photography also captures these well...the flowering Almond is especially gorgeous!

  16. My goodness Jennifer do you have an outstanding collection of shrubs up there! I happen to be adding more to my garden this year so this was very helpful. I was particularly interested in the Dwarf Fothergilla. And you know I always love seeing photos of your amazing space! Just such lovely combinations in your garden!! Wishing you a wonderful weekend! And thanks for the note about the son came down with pneumonia so it has been a long is to sunny days in the garden! Nicole xo

  17. Jennifer I have had almost all of these shrubs (I think I am a shrub-o-holic actually) haha
    One I would recommend is southern bush honeysuckle .. it is drought tolerant once established and no pests as far as I have seen .. the foliage is gorgeous and it has delicate yellow flowers in August. It is a wonderful native plant ! I was just asked permission to use one of my photos of it for a quarterly major hort magazine (of course I was thrilled to bits .. you never know who sees your pictures or your blog ! : ) .. there is something about a variety of shrubs in a garden that completes it .. I couldn't be without them !
    Fantastic post girl !

  18. What a great list. They're all so beautiful and, as always, make me yearn for more room. I remember the Deutzia from one of your posts last year. I think I need one in my life. And how funny, I grew up with my grandma, and mom, calling the weigela Beauty Bush. They do look similar. My favorite part of this post was seeing photos of your own personal garden.


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