Although I enjoy spending as much time as I can in the garden, I know that many of you just don’t have the time to tend to finicky flowers or vigorous vines. But you still want a beautiful backyard, right? Modern-day flowering shrubs just may be the answer for you.
Shrubs have always been easier to care for than perennials and annuals, many of which make high demands on our time. However, shrubs are plants of another disposition entirely. Give shrubs the space they need, lots of water to get them started, relatively good soil and some sunlight and they can be pretty much self-sufficient.
To improve on a good thing, plant breeders have been working hard to develop easy-care shrubs with foliage that remains attractive all season long, bountiful blooms that last longer than ever (some even re-bloom) and good disease-resistance. The result is a no-fuss garden that looks like it’s groomed by a team of gardeners.
Here are some of the most reliable ones.
Ninebarks (Physocarpus) are some of the toughest shrubs for the landscape. Tolerant of both heat and drought, they’re also deer resistant (an important point for those of you who garden near a ravine). I’ve grown one called Coppertina for the last three years and I love it for its coppery coloured leaves alone – not to mention it lovely pink flowers. A new one to look for is called Lemon Candy, a compact shrub that grows less than one metre tall and wide with bright chartreuse foliage and white flowers in spring. Little Devil is another new, compact variety that’s about a metre tall and wide. It features reddish purple leaves and creamy white
With all the new hydrangeas that have been developed over the last few years, it’s hard to know which one to choose. The good news is: you can’t go too far wrong if you stick to the arborescens and paniculata types and avoid the macrophyllas, which can be a tad touchy in our climate. ‘Annabelle’ is an old favourite arborescence type that’s been supersized in the form of Incrediball (Invincibell Spirit is its pretty pink sister). The huge flowerheads are supported by sturdy stems, too, so this one won’t sag under the weight of its blooms. Quick Fire and Limelight are fairly new paniculata varieties. Little Lime is a new, more compact version of Limelight that’s good for small space city gardens. I’m also smitten by Tickled Pink, another paniculata type that’s a little over a metre tall and wide with white flowers that fade to rosy pink. For the most part, hydrangeas will take a little shade (the more sun, the more flowers, though) but they absolutely demand plenty of water, so consider installing some simple irrigation – even a soaker hose on a timer will do the trick.
New old favourites
With this list in hand, all you have to do is find the time to visit the nurseries and pick out your favourite, easy care flowering shrubs.