Deciduous flowering shrubs are the workhorses of the garden. They are the infill of the garden, the middle part or depth of a good design and very, very necessary. Flowering evergreen shrubs are lovely, but in my opinion there are few that will stop you in your tracks to watch them at their height of glory like one that has one season less to make magic in.
Many of these are old fashioned, and many have only one season of interest, but oh... what a season. Here are my top 4 must have deciduous flowering shrubs for the garden:
Mock orange, not to be confused with Choysia or Mexican Mock Orange which is also a pretty nice plant. I have the golden leaved Philadelphus at the front of my house. You’ll want to plant this one by a window that opens, the fragrance of the soft white single or double flowers which generally open in June is my favorite of all time. It is a medium vaselike shrub growing to about 8 feet high by about 6 feet wide with soft grass green or gold leaves depending on the variety.
It prefers a part shade area (protection from the hot afternoon sun is a must have for the single flowering golden leaved varieties), with humic, well draining soil. They are often not pretty when you get them, not sure if its because they are constricted to a small pot or perhaps too exposed to the wind but once you dig them into the garden and they can stretch and breath (very scientific eh?), you will be amazed at how sturdy, versatile, beautiful and oh my how fragrant.
In fact, if it wasn’t raining right now I’d be typing this on my front steps near my Philadelphus. There are a few varieties out there that aren’t scented and though lovely it’s like being handed a cupcake with no icing. Sad. Depending on variety, Philadelphus can be hardy to zone 4.
Another mighty workhorse to the garden is the Spirea. There are many forms and a stunning array of leaf colours and sizes from the sprawling fountain like grandeur of the Spriea ‘Tor' in full bloom - to the compact 1-2 punch of the Spirea ‘Lime Mound’ with its chartreuse leaves and pink flowers at the end of June and beginning of July.
I am tickled pink with the leaf colour on these never mind that they flower, and are actually softly fragrant. ‘Little Princess’ literally gets covered in pink blooms which are usually sporting a number of content looking butterflies. I am starting to wonder if they come with the plant.
This group of shrubs are easy to care for and like an average, well drained soil in sun to part shade. If you get the lighter leaved varieties consider placing them out of a high wind area or some protection from afternoon sun to avoid burned leaf edges.
I have limited room but have a Spirea ‘Goldflame’ which I coppice right to the ground in later winter so that it remains a tidy little pom pom of a plant. The size of spirea ranges from about 3-4 feet by about 3-4 feet. 'Bridal Veil' and some of the others are a bit larger (10 feet high by 20 feet wide) so make sure you choose the right spirea for you. Most are hardy to zone 3.
This is a plant that I have always had in my garden in one form or another. When I was little I made a fort out of this sprawling vase shaped shrub and listened to the bees when it was in full bloom. Honey bees, bumble bees, humming birds and butterflies love this plant. So do I.
The trumpet shaped flowers are glorious and happen over the course of 2 to 3 weeks in June-July but oh what a show. If you are lucky, they will take a bit of a break and bloom a bit in late summer. There are now burgundy leaved varieties and green leaved striped with chartreuse and some edged in gold and one with a lovely completely green gold leaf to extend the season of interest. There are some lower growing but they can attain a height of about 12-15 feet by about 5-6 feet. These shrubs appreciate a light pruning after blooming so that next years blooms have time to form on the new wood.
Rubidor and ‘Wine and Roses’ are two that come to mind with excellent leaf colour as well. Do use the golds and burgundy leaved plants sparingly in your garden to give a punch of colour. Filling your garden full of golds and burgundy and variegated shrubs will just create visual unrest.
Ninebark, as it is also known, is an upright shrub to create visual interest and texture at the back of the border both in summer and with the shredding bark in the winter. There are green leaved, gold leaved and multihued burgundy and chocolate leaved varieties.
The blossoms are held in corymbs and are usually white to slightly pinkish white. Some are red in bud and white in bloom followed by brown or red seed heads to extend interest as in ‘Center Glow’. The average growth rate is about 6-8 feet by about 5-6 feet and there are a number of dwarf varieties if you have limited space. They favour sun but will take part shade and average, well draining soils will suffice.
Prune by thinning out some (no more than 1/3) of the branches to the ground creating an open habit. Most are hardy to zone 3.Physocarpus is a great shrub to provide colour and interest to the garden. It is available in both shrub and tree form.
Hibiscus syriacus – Rose of Sharon
This hardy form of hibiscus is always an eyecatcher. Its blooms are exotic looking. They are smaller single and double versions of the tropical hibiscus blossoms. The bark is silvery grey and the leaves are grass green. Be patient in the spring. This late summer glory will be one of the last of your deciduous shrubs to leaf out. In spite of its exotic look, this shrub is a tough cookie. Plant in sun in average soil. Most will grow to about 6-8 feet and will be about 5-6 feet high. They are hardy to zone 5.
These are a few of the deciduous flowering shrubs that are worthwhile members of a strong garden design. They are hardy, they are tough and they are a few of the workhorses of your garden.
Arts Nursery stocks a wide variety of deciduous shrubs year round. As always, call to confirm the availability of specific varieties as our selection changes frequently. If you have any questions, visit us in person or call 604.882.1201.