Hardy Shrubs - Eight Of The Finest
Hardy shrubs are not only plants which can survive cold winters, but in addition need to be able to withstand drought conditions and drying winds common to many areas when the weather is cold. Most plants fitting under the classification of hardy shrubs do well under conditions of relative neglect, but of course are usually at their best when given at least some care and attention. Picking one or more of the shrubs described below can add to the garden by filling in a shady spot, a windy location, or a dry place where other plants or shrubs do not do particularly well. Some of the shrubs are flowering shrubs, others are not, some are deciduous, others evergreen.
Azaleas And Rhododendrons - These are grouped together, as they have very similar characteristics and require similar care, though the rhododendron is usually a larger shrub, often growing to the height of a small tree, and also has larger leaves and flowers. Both are evergreen. Azaleas and rhododendrons are at their best when grown in shade or partial shade. They require a soil that is somewhat acidic, and an occasional feeding of an acidic fertilizer to keep leaves from turning yellow. Though sometimes bothered by early freezes, these plants can withstand periods of freezing weather quite well.
Barberry - There are a number of barberry varieties, with the Japanese barberry the most commonly seen. These shrubs make excellent small fences or borders but can also be grown as specimen plants. They feature rather large and sharp thorns, so a good pair of gloves plus a little caution is advised when working with the plant or pruning it. One problem with the barberry is that birds tend to spread its seeds, and in some locations it has become an invasive plant.
Boxwood - The boxwood is a dense, low growing shrub perfect for borders, though several hybrids can grow to several feet in height, and some hybrid varieties are used for topiary. The boxwood is an evergreen, with most shrubs being naturally full and rounded in shape. While the boxwood is cold weather hardy, drying winds during the winter can at times result in leaf burn and desiccation of the plant. The shrubs can be misted with an anti-transpiration solution in late fall to prevent drying out during the winter.
Dogwood - The dogwood is a great favorite and, depending upon the species, can be grown as a dwarf shrub, a ground creeper, a small tree, or a rather large specimen tree. One of the more interesting varieties is the red-twigged dogwood, featuring variegated leaves that are particularly showy as they begin to turn in the fall. A creeping variety, very suitable for a rock garden is the Bunchberry dogwood, Cornus canadensis. The Bunchberry dogwood blooms in the spring, and has attractive white blossoms. Its berries are said to be edible.
Spirea - The many varieties of spirea are hardy shrubs which, although deciduous, remain attractive during the winter as the branches can be rather dense and nicely formed. One of the more attractive varieties is Spiraea x vanhouttei, also called the Bridalwreath spirea, which blooms profusely in late spring or early summer. These shrubs need to be pruned annually, usually in late summer or fall, to ensure prolific blooming the following year. The spirea makes a nice specimen plant as well as an attractive hedge, growing anywhere from 3' to 7' high.
Flowering Quince - This shrub, while not quite as hardy as those mentioned above, will still overwinter nicely in most areas of the United States. The flowering quince is a particularly colorful shrub, as its blossoms, which can vary from pink to a bright red, are offset nicely by the foliage which is bronze in the early spring, turning to a deep green over the summer months. One variety, Jet Trail, features white flowers. Most varieties of the flowering quince are from 2' to 5' high.
Amur Maple - If it's fall color that's wanted, the Amur maple is hard to beat, plus as far as hardy shrubs go, it is one of the hardiest and toughest. The Amur maple can grow fairly high, but is easily pruned to the height desired. Fall foliage is usually a mix of bright reds and bright yellows, with some varieties turning to a more scarlet color in the fall. Most maples of this type are rather slow growing. There are several dwarf varieties available.
Forsythia - This deciduous bush is a harbinger of spring, being one of the earliest of the blooming shrubs. Though easily pruned, it can be difficult to shape at times as the branches tend to grow in a rather wild pattern, and the shrub also has a tendency to send up quite a number of suckers. The forsythia is a very reliable blooming shrub however featuring weeping branches covered with small bright yellow blossoms. Branches can be brought indoors just before the buds open, and placed in a vase of water, giving up to a week of indoor color. As is the case with the spirea, blooming is best if the plant has been rather severely pruned just after the previous seasons blooming.
There are many more hardy shrubs available, the above examples being just the tip of the iceberg. Others of note include the lilac, the hydrangea, the viburnum, and for a more formal landscape, the privet hedge.