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Let's shout out for shrubs!

Six reasons to shower praise on shrubs

Why should we be shouting out for shrubs? Let's look to nature to teach us. If you absorb the sights of the countryside you will see that it's the season for shrubs and trees. Impressive; stately; astonishing; colourful; architectural. They've got it all, whichever adjective you choose.   In fact, it's the shrubs and trees that make the UK into a historically green and pleasant land. Although now it is not only green but also orange, yellow, gold, amber, red, purple and green of course.

People flock to see the colourful trees and shrubs at Sheffield Park in East Sussex during Autumn   Shrubs fell from favour a few decades ago when people discovered ornamental grasses and perennials. Without doubt, these do look gorgeous. Gardens are subject to fashion almost as much as the catwalk. But because Britain has winter, perennials and grasses don't always cut the mustard all year long. Grasses look fabulous in the autumn and their seedheads and flowers give structure right into winter. Perennials die down in autumn and don't rear their pretty heads again until spring. So in winter the perennials and grasses garden can look a little bleak and bare.

Without the structure of shrubs and trees, a perennial garden can look bare in winter! But shrubs! They are there, come what may. Their woody nature means they soldier on throughout the year, lending form, texture and colour to any planting scheme or any natural setting.

Here's the six reasons why we should shower praise on shrubs:

1: They are there for us all year round. Dependable, reliable, trustworthy. The stalwarts of the     garden. They won't disappear at the first sign of frost, leaving an empty space.

Shrubs in the winter look beautiful with their frosted foliage

2: They have so many different personalities: some are glittering evergreens; some have vibrant stem colour; many have luscious berries or hips; others have brilliant leaf colour; there are variegated beauties that add a splash of excitement; some have silvery-leaves which lift a dark place; others offer a perfect backdrop which enable us to show off plants in front.  Winter stem colour from Cornus  

3: They give wonderful structure within a garden which can be used as the basis for a design. Elements of their form or colour can be used repeatedly to bring a scheme together. They can also be used to soften the edges of hard elements of landscaping such as paths.  Shrubs and trees give great structure to an outside space    

4: They can be clipped! Hedges, spheres; topiary! They (mainly) tolerate a lot of interference without complaining about it.   The famous topiary gardens at Levenshall in Cumbria attract visitors from all over the world

5. They provide privacy. Grow them tall (but please note, there is something called High Hedges Legislation which deems a high hedge to be over 2m tall). You can use them for screening; to filter wind (they are better than fences as they don't cause the wind turbulence); to make a division; to create an archway... the possibilities for shrubs are endless.  Beware of creating a hedge that might cause issues with the neighbours!  

6. Great for biodiversity! Birds love shrubs for their berries; their bugs and for their nesting potential. Mammals also eat their fruits.   Shrubs offer great biodiversity in a garden. Good for wildlife.   How to go about it? The best time for planting shrubs is NOW! While the leaves are still holding on, just before the plant goes into complete dormancy. Although you can also plant bare root shrubs and container grown varieties later too. What should you plant? There are some sorry shrubs around. It is normally those that have been shoe-horned into a space that's too small. The gardener then faces a battle with the shears. Constant clipping doesn't do much for a shrub that wants to spread. The gardener who would like to sleep at night would be wise to allow a shrub to form into its natural shape, or there will be a maintenance nightmare. If there isn't room, choose another shrub. The exception is hedges or shaped forms for which maintenance is all part of the regime.

Some plants are a pleasure to maintain! This cloud-pruned evergreen is beautiful.   Got a dark corner? Think about a silver-leafed shrub or one with bright, lime-green foliage. Variegations are good for brightening up gloomy spots too. Those with glossy evergreen foliage reflect the light and add a touch of sparkle.  This Eleagnus 'Quicksilver' brightens up a dark space in the garden.   Camellias and Hydrangeas love shady places.  Euonymus 'Golden Maiden' or 'President Gauthier' ;  Euonymus 'Golden Maiden' gives a bright splash of colour to a winter garden Ilex varieties including 'Lawsonia'. There are shrubs with bright yellow flowers such as Mahonia 'Winter Sun' - and these smell wonderful too. Need some screening? Aucuba japonica 'Variegata' is really useful and it has sunny speckles on the leaves.  How about the wonderful Nandina domestica if you want something a bit different? the 'heavenly bamboo', as it is commonly known, isn't a bamboo at all but this evergreen shrub has delightful red tints in autumn.  The beautiful Nandina domestica garden shrub. Something for all seasons, especially autumn and winter  

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