Flowering shrubs were once a staple of home landscapes, but over time, they have lost their fanbase. Reasons for this loss of popularity may have been their large size and limited seasonal interest.
I can recall the Vanhoutte spirea (S. x vanhouttei) in the front of the house where I grew up. In spring, it was magnificent when covered with clusters of small white flowers, but the rest of the year, it was unremarkable except for its huge size, growing 5 to 8 feet tall and 7-to 10-feet-wide.
Today, plant purveyors are working to offer new flowering and evergreen shrubs for the home landscapes. Many are more compact and have multiseasonal interest, such as springtime flowers, bright fall color or interesting bark. Other desirable traits include prolonged or repeat bloom, remarkable foliage colors and textures, low maintenance requirements, and pest resistance. Every year, I get excited about all the new shrubs and this year is no exception. Here are just a few.
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Spring Lace Viburnum is offered by Bailey Nurseries. Viburnums are one of my favorite shrubs, but most tend to be too large for my landscape. However, I might consider planting Spring Lace because it grows only 5 feet tall and wide, has dark green leaves that turn dark red in fall and is covered with flat clusters of fragrant white blooms in spring. Bailey Nurseries says it appears to be fruitless.
I also fondly remember a yellow climbing rose that grew in my grandparents’ yard. It grew tall and bloomed only once in early summer. Ball Ornamentals is introducing a new series of climbing roses, the Starlet Beauty series, for use in small garden spaces and in patio containers. Ball describes this series as the “elegant little sister of the large-flowered classic climbing roses.” Mauve, pink, ruby or tangerine colored double blooms are produced all season long. Ball says the plants are well branched, growing 8 to 10 inches tall and 3 to 4 inches wide, and can be trained to grow vertically or horizontally on a trellis.
I am not a big fan when it comes to boxwood because of its odoriferous foliage and vulnerability to winter sunburn damage. However, its compact growth works well in more formal landscapes and gardens. Monrovia is introducing Petite Pillar Dwarf Boxwood. It is a dwarf columnar boxwood that grows only 2 to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide at the base. Monrovia notes that Petite Pillar can be used in containers, in limited space landscapes or for creating small hedges. It does not need regular shearing to keep it neat and compact.
Every year, Proven Winners introduces interesting new shrubs. This year, one new shrub is a cute little viburnum that will fit into any landscape. Lil’ Ditty is a fragrant dwarf viburnum that only grows up to 2 feet tall and wide, with a mounded form. The creamy white flowers are produced in late spring and may yield a crop of showy black fruit if a pollinator is nearby.
Speaking of small, Proven Winners also markets a diminutive forsythia, Show Off Sugar Baby. It is perfect for the smaller spaces in today’s home landscapes, growing only 18 to 30 inches tall and wide, also with a mounded form, and covered with bright yellow flowers in the spring. It does not require heavy annual pruning.
Make a visit to your favorite local nursery and see what new shrubs have arrived. I bet you will find at least one that you must have. I know I will.
Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.