04 January 2008

top ten plants--shrubs

Finally collecting some time to do the last of my top ten plant collections, in between growling at our internet connection and doing some real work. For some inscrutable reason, our connection has been falling to dialup speed in the evening, but I have optimism that our provider--a local business--will get to the bottom of the problem. It's put a cramp in both my blogging and my blog reading, because when pages are image heavy--including my own--and the speed has dropped to dialup...well, it's just too frustrating to sit waiting and I just go do something else.

Something I wanted to clarify; these lists are my own personal favourites (at the moment) based on having them in my garden. Ours is not a small city garden--I would go mad if I lived in an urban setting; we have seven acres up here on our high hill, with a farm on one side of us and a woodlot on the other, and another large acreage across the road owned by our nearest neighbour. There will never be any neighbours looking in our windows from their windows, and I can basically plant whatever I want, money and time permitting, of course. So while some of my choices might not work for your garden, they're by no means a carved in stone thing; just some plants I particularly enjoy and recommend as being good performers.

So lets get started. Atlantic Canada has a lot of acid soil, and our cooler temperatures invite the growing of many different ericaceous plants. Because I have friends with amazing collections of rhododendrons and azaleas, in the past couple of years I've become a great fan of these versatile plants too. From the petite daintiness of Rhododendron 'Ramapo' (top photo) to the delights of deciduous azaleas like 'Golden Lights' to the various other rhodos and azaleas around our place, these plants delight me. They're tidy, easy to care for once they're properly planted, and handsome all year round. Other ericaceous plants around our place include Pieris 'Mountain Fire', Gaultheria procumbens, Andromeda polifolia, but the rhododendrons really are becoming habit forming. Just wait til I get my mitts on the Royal Azalea!

Some of the same culprits who got me onto rhodos also encouraged my dipping into magnolias. A Magnolia stellata has done very well here in the past three years, so this past year I got brave and added M. 'Anne', one of the larger flowered stellata type magnolias, to our garden. It settled in well, and now I'm thinking that the next addition will have to be one of the yellow-flowered beauties. We'll see...

I love Cornus species, especially the tough red osier C. sericea, red osier dogwood. Ours have spread into about five separate shrubs, and I've let several of them get quite big (about 7 feet tall) to provide some shade to one part of the garden. The others I keep cutting back so as to get the spectacularly coloured red twigs, which just light up the back garden in winter. Dogwoods are great attractants for butterflies and birds, which is one of the reasons I like them so much, of course.

Native witchhazels live in the woods around our property, though I never seem to get down there when they're flowering, and I haven't yet succumbed to the urge to dig one up from the woods either. But this past spring I got my happy mitts on Hamamelis 'Diane' (or is it Diana?), which I've mentioned before; a reddish orange flowered cultivar that caught my eye when I first saw it in a private garden a few years ago. Next year I do plan to add several of the natives, hopefully both the fall-blooming and late-winter types, as they're great bird and beneficial insect hosts too.

Another type of shrub that's caught my attention in recent years are the evergreens, both broadleaf like the rhodos and hollies, and all of the needled types. I especially am fond of Chamaecyparis, as mentioned in the Top ten trees post, and this one is a star of the winter garden; it's C. 'Heatherbun'. It was described to me as having plum-coloured winter foliage, and wouldn't you say that's about right? I have protected it in the past with evergreen boughs for winter (it's been here for a couple of years now) but this year--it's currently buried (this photo was taken during the melt last week). Behind it is Thuja 'Sunkist', another shrub I am quite fond of.

The paniculata grandiflora type hydrangeas do best for me, rather than the more garish mopheads; and this past year, Limelight was a complete showstopper, flowering well into autumn. I left the flowerheads on the plant, which is right outside my office window, and it delights me to watch birds perching on them after snacking at the feeder.

Viburnums are awesome too, and next year my plan is to add a few of the more native ones; currently I have V. trilobum, the socalled highbush cranberry, but I don't have witherod or several other natives that grow nicely around here. Along with a lovely fragrant viburnum that I added this year, we have V. plicatum 'Mariesii', which some call Summer Snowflake; it covers itself with the most beautiful white flowers, and it throws up a few blooms later in the season, too.

This was one of the most hyped new plants in 2007, and if it overwinters as nicely as it settled in and grew for me, Weigela 'My Monet' will definitely be a shining star in our garden. It's a compact plant, supposedly not growing more than 18-20 inches tall, making it a unique bordering shrub; and look at the colour! The flowers are a bit too pale a pink for my liking, but with foliage like this, who cares?

Another new plant that I happily got my mitts on last spring was one I'd become besotted with as soon as I heard about it: Physocarpus 'Coppertina' ninebark. It's well named; brilliant copper foliage that gradually deepens to deep purple as fall comes on. I'm quite besotted with ninebarks for all kinds of reasons; their bright foliage, their tidy clusters of flowers that turn into wonderful fruits, their nicely peeling bark, the way birds flock to them...and 'Coppertina' has the makings of a real star.

Harry Lauder's Walking Stick is probably the most delightful name I know of for a shrub, also known as Corylus avellana 'Contorta'. This is truly a 4 season plant; some would say its best season is now, when the gnarled branches are free of leaves and we can really admire their structure; they also look great in spring with catkins festooning them, and of course look unique in summer and fall too. The leaves are twisted and crumpled looking during summer, so don't think they're diseased. There's a red-foliaged one, 'Red Majestic' that is pretty tempting, but I'll likely opt for other plants before I pay the premium for it.

You wouldn't expect me to finish a post without having at least one gold-foliaged plant in the mix, would you? This little Proven Winners Colorchoice shrub is Deutzia 'Chardonay Pearls', and I had to have it for the wine and chocolate garden. It's dainty and attractive, although too much sun does seem to burn the leaf edges--this might have been because I didn't water it sufficiently after planting, but it rallied nicely and settled in well.

So there you have it; I'm sure many of you will have different choices based on where you live and what your tastes are--which is great because it gives me even MORE ideas. Of course, I have way, way more than ten shrubs in the garden, and there are some that just didn't make the cut, even though I love them, like both the curly willow and the 'Nishiki' willow. And did I tell you one of my best buddies has a nursery specializing in trees and shrubs, a lot of them native, and I am incapable of coming home from there without a new plant or six???


  1. I love that you included a Deutzia, I think people should plant more of this genus. It's usually a great, carefree shrub.
    I also love the viburnums. No shrub list is complete without at least one viburnum!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  2. I love your pictures and think this is a great blog! I'm a novice gardener, but I love anything that has flowers. Your cats are beautiful, also :-)

  3. I am always so green with envy over acid-loving shrubs, especially the purple flowered Rhodos & the Pieris. Sigh... If I had more property, I'd definitely expand my Magnolia palette. I love M.stellata, but I'm thinking that when mine dies, I'll replace it with a pink form of stellata. I have seen 'Red Majestic' contorted Hazelnut, & I have to have it. Maybe not this year, maybe not next, but definitely, someday.

  4. I've got a couple of those on your list, but there are two that have been on MY list for a year or more now. It will be my goal to make them happen this year.

    Kim knows I was on a quest for 'Coppertina' last fall, but I was unsuccessful at finding it, even in Cleveland. Of course, it was October...

    I've been wanting a witch hazel and the one you show is a stunner! Must have it!!

  5. Jodi, your garden is bigger than I thought while looking at the pictures :)
    Coppertina and the weigela are new to me - yes they look awsome.

  6. Lucky you to have a nice buddy with a nursery ;-) ! It was a pleasure to read this post again. And it is also interesting to see, that we have a lot of plants in common, though your climate is quite different.
    My witchhazel normally blooms at this time of the year, but not this year.

  7. Hi Jodi, and happy new year. I liked all the photos - especially the Harry Lauder's Walking Stick. That is one awesome plant! Thanks for warm thoughts of spring on this winter day!!

  8. OOOOoooo that little Weigela looks like it should be "mine". :) I also love the Deutzia. I might try that one. I haven't had luck with Deutzias. If it grows up north hopefully it will grow here. Reading all of your choices makes me want to go out and plant plant plant. It won't be long.

  9. I love the pink in the Weigela, that would be perfect in my garden. I bought two of the 'Wine and Roses' last year, but I may have to add the 'My Monet' this year.

    I also planted two red twig dogwoods last year , I'm assuming it is the same species as yours, but not sure.

    I'd love to have all of that space to play with, lucky you.

  10. Great post! I particularly love the red osier dogwood, which I'm sure would be a great splash of color in winter....you mentioned it was hardy, so it might be something to look into considering Ohio has the most random.weather.ever.

  11. If my math is correct, you have about 55 times the planting space that I do - lots of room for all those beautiful things, Jodi! Both Limelight and Coppertina do look like garden stars.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  12. I just had to add that I was plant surfing online yesterday & came across a red-foliage Physocarpus - I think that would look great next to 'Monlo' (Diabolo) or 'Seward' (Summer Wine).

  13. Hi all...

    Carol, so you find deutzias aren't planted that often either? I thought it was just me, not noticing them unless they are in flower, or something like that.

    Mary, welcome, and come back anytime. We do have very lovely kitties, and they remind me of that daily.

    MMD, I could send you some acidic soil...most of Atlantic Canada has plenty of it, between rocks and maples and other hardwoods that help contribute...I'd rather have acidic than alkaline soil, I've decided after some years of contemplation on the subject. And I know I said I don't really think I need 'Red Majestic'...but if the price is right, I'm sure I'll find a place for one!

    Kylee, there should be lots of 'Coppertina' around this year. Especially if it overwinters as well as its relatives do (Diabolo is one of my favourite plants in the garden, all year round.) And yes, witch hazels are also habit forming, I think.

    Ewa, we do have seven acres, but a lot of it is in pasture or paddock...but I have plenty of room to play, and lots of room to add other things in less organized garden mode, like down around the pond.

    Barbara, my nursery buddy is a terrific plantsman--well, actually, all of them are (I can think of six nursery operators who I call good friends, others that I like very much but are more acquaintances and business colleagues) I do my best to keep them all in business, too!

    Davis, Happy New Year to you also! You remind me I haven't visited your blog since before Christmas, and must see what you're up to.

    Lisa, I know how you feel--reading about new plants, other people's gardens and projects makes ME want to plant too.

    Robin, there are several species and cultivars of red twig dogwoods. Mine is probably just basic C. sericea, but Proven Winners has a couple of dandy ones, Arctic Fire and Arctic Sun. I need to get the yellow-twigged one, too. More plants, more plants needed!

    Jessica, welcome! The dogwood should do fine in Ohio, I think (Kylee?) because it's a hardy/native type rather than the warmer types like Cornus kousa or C. floridae (too tired to look up spellings).

    Annie, as I said above, it's not all garden...but it's my piece of heaven, that's for sure. Do hydrangeas do well for you in Austin?

    MMD...another Physocarpus?? Oh oh...guess I'll have to make more room! Sounds good to me!

  14. Jodi, my grandma has had 'Diabolo' for several years now and they're LOVELY. I almost got that one, but really wanted 'Coppertina' so I was holding out for it. Now I think I want both. LOL.

    Yes, dogwoods do fine here! I don't know what kind the one is that we've had for fifteen years - just plain old dogwood - LOL. We've got a Cornus kousa, too. I did lose a pink one last winter (its first winter after planting).

  15. Hi Jodi,

    One reason I enjoy looking at and sighing over your garden is that so few of these plants could survive in Texas. It's not just the heat and dryness but the alkalinity of the soil. Since you've spent years of contemplation on this subject you know it can be a real pain!

    I've managed to keep a couple of camellias alive but they don't thrive. I spent a whole $6 for a hydrangea from the bargain/rescue table at the nursery last summer - maybe it will live.


  16. Thanks Jodi. I had a very busy Christmas too and had to play catchup of blog reading. I suspect a lot of us did the same. See you soon.


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