Native species of shrubs are among the most beautiful plants for the garden. They’re also easy to grow and care for as they’ve adapted to the natural environmental conditions and can tolerate even the harshest of conditions. The following are few treasured native shrubs which are ideal for the garden.
Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is the earliest blooming shrub for the garden, often blooming in late February while snow is still on the ground. Its fuzzy yellow flowers tolerate extremely cold temperatures and give off a sweet fragrance. Witchhazel has an interesting twisted appearance. Most witchhazel flowers are yellow though those of the variety ‘Diana’ are coppery red. Witchhazel is ideal for a natural setting such as the woodland garden. They prefer well-drained soil and partial shade to full sun but can tolerate shade.
Pinkshell Azalea (Rhododendron vaseyi) is another early spring blooming shrub. Its bell-shaped pink to white flowers are spotted within and bloom before the shrub develops its foliage. It’s a deciduous variety of azalea which means it loses its leaves each fall. Ideal for a woodland garden, shrub border or for naturalizing the landscape, Pinkshell azalea is a versatile shrub able to adapt to a variety of garden situations. It grows upright and can reach twelve feet in height.
Viburnums have long been an gardener’s favorite. They’re one the most useful and versatile and easy care shrubs available. There are a number of native varieties which are suitable for the garden. Native species of viburnum, include the Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) and Maple-Leaf (Viburnum acerifolium), are wonderful as woodland garden shrubs with white flowers in spring and berries through fall and winter.
Another viburnum, American Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum), is a wonderful spring blooming shrub for the garden. In late spring it produces clusters of white flowers. Later in the season it produces red berries which provides fall and winter interest. The fall foliage is yellow, red, or red-purple. The high bush cranberry is also easy to grow and a magnet for birds.
Red Twig Dogwoods (Cornus sericea) flower each spring and develop lush foliage for the summer. These characteristics, however nice, are not what this shrub is know for. They are treasured for their colorful stems. Red twig dogwoods provide the garden with, as the name suggests, amazing red bark. After its leaves drop it red stems contrasts nicely with the brown earth and white snow drifts. Red twig dogwoods can become a focal point in the garden as stands out among the barren winter landscape.
Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) is an attractive shrub with dark green fragrant foliage. It also produces fragrant waxy berries which attract wildlife and are often used in candle making. is a very hardy shrub tolerant of a wide range of environmental conditions. It grows well in poor infertile soils, heavy clay and sandy soil. It is a common shrub along the coast and as such is able to tolerate salt spray and roadside conditions. Its leaves and berries are aromatic.
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a deciduous variety of holly which produces an abundance of berries which turn red in early fall and last the winter. An ideal shrub for shady areas with wet soil. As with most hollies both male and female bushes are required for berry production. One male is enough for half-a-dozen females.
Summersweet (Clethera alnifolia) is an easy to grow shrub which is native to wetland and wooded areas of the northeast. As a woodland shrub it is suitable for the shade garden. Summersweet is one of the few late summer flowering shrubs and can add color to the garden at a time when few other shrubs are in bloom. Its blooms are white or pink and fragrant, making summersweet an ideal shrub for areas near gathering spaces such as patios and decks. The flowers attract butterflies. Summersweet is a hardy shrub which can tolerate ocean spray and road salt.
The Pussy Willow (Salix discolor) is another native spring blooming shrub. Its large red flower buds develop into silky white and gray catkins. Reddish brown leaves mature to a dark green. Pussy willow is also a great year-round shrub as its leaves leave turn yellow in fall and its mahogany-red stems add interest to the winter landscape. Pussy willow is a tall shrub (up to 25’) which prefers a sunny location and moist, well-drained soil. Salix discolor looks good in woodland gardens or other naturalistic settings.
Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is a spring flowering evergreen shrub. Its pale pink flowers attract hummingbirds. Mountain laurel will grow in full sun if it has consistently moist soil. In full shade, its form is tall and loose; the bare, contorted branches are picturesque.
There are many benefits to landscaping with native plants. They help protect the environment, cost less and give you more free time. Native plantings also promote bio-diversity and provide a home for wildlife. Native shrubs provide the garden with vibrant colors and textures and help create a more beautiful and interesting garden.