These stone owls make a wise addition to any garden.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- So many shrubs, so little space.
Readers often ask me to suggest the "perfect" shrub -- and that's such a hard question to answer.
First criterion: It needs to look good year-round. If you have space for lots of shrubs, this doesn't matter as much. You can have your winter-interest red twig dogwood, your late-winter witch hazel, your early-spring forsythia, your summer butterfly bush, your autumn beauty berry ... and so on.
But most people want it all in one, and that's a tall order to fill.
Here are a few that are pretty darned close to perfect:
My husband's favorite shrubs are of the evergreen variety -- he thinks if it's green all the time, it's perfect. In that light, I'll go with the Blue Princess and Blue Prince holly (Ilex x meserveae'Blue Princess' or 'Blue Prince'). These can get quite large, but are easily pruned. The shrub's leaves are glossy, dark green and moderately spiny. Blue Princess holly berries are bright red. They work in full sun to part shade, and will need an acidic soil, easily achieved with Holly-tone or other similar fertilizer. The 'Blue Prince' is the pollinator that ensures the berries on the Princess.
Ilex verticillata'Red Sprite' is a dwarf form of red-fruited winterberry. It's a deciduous holly that won't require much space and has larger than normal red berries in the fall and winter. This plant needs a male holly as pollinator, such as 'Jim Dandy,' a short, deciduous male winterberry to tuck in behind 'Red Sprite' so he can do his job. A gardening friend told me that if there's a male holly within a half a mile of your female, it's works! I've never purchased a male holly for pollinating purposes as we have many native hollies in the woods around our home.
Ahhhh, hydrangeas. One of my all-time favorites. The oakleaf hydrangea is the best because the large leaves are beautiful. With the 'Snowflake' cultivar, you get white flowers on large panicles, which change to pink as they age. The blooms are double, which means that as the new white petals come out of the middle of the flower, the older petals hold on and fade to pink. In the fall, the leaves turn red and the flowers hang on through the winter to set off the shrub's exfoliating bark.
Knock Out roses are a gift to those of us who are overwhelmed by the thought of growing roses. Mine bloomed into December! They don't have to be pruned, they are disease- and insect-resistant, the new stems and leaves are purple, and they just bloom and bloom and bloom and bloom all spring, summer and fall.
Purple smoke bushes (Cotinus coggygria) are tall, wide and often used as specimen plants in the landscape. It's highly drought-tolerant. This bush, like the hollies, is dioecious -- they have their male and female parts on separate flowers on separate plants. Both types must be planted for pollination to occur. However, with the smoke bush, you don't want to have a male pollinator around, because the purple-pink plumes are the result of hairs on the infertile flowers.