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Mid-Atlantic Gardening: Plant Shrubs for Texture

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By choosing shrubs with eye-catching texture, you can create a Mid-Atlantic region landscape with year-round appeal.

Shrubs distinguish an entry garden.
Chicago Hardy fig and Summer Wine ninebark make a striking combination.

No matter what kind of planting you're tackling, count on shrubs to interject textural interest. For instance this driveway entry (above) becomes an eye-pleasing scene when burgundy barberry and evergreen shrubs blend artfully with ornamental grass and groundcovers.

To simplify designing with shrubs I visited with Randy Shreve, owner/landscape designer at Nature's Art in Cumberland, Maryland. I wanted to glean tips for using shrubs to add textural interest.

(To learn the basics about shrub texture and designing with it, be sure to view the video at the end of the blog.)

Know the Site
When deciding which shrubs to use, consider the growing conditions such as sun or shade and type of soil, Randy says. Pair shrubs with different leaf textures but that need the same conditions, for example Summer Wine ninebark and 'Chicago Hardy' fig, which make a striking combination.

Coarse-textured shrubs, such as cypress, barberry, holly and rhododendron here, mix well.

Randy also stresses knowing your hardiness zone. The Mid-Atlantic region varies among zones due to elevation and ocean influences. "Use shrubs hardy to a zone colder than necessary, just to be safe in a bad winter," Randy says.

Plan for Multiseason Interest
Include evergreen shrubs for multiseason interest, Randy says. "That way winter views won't be bare." Good choices for a fine-textured shrub include 'Firepower' nandina, 'Gold Mop' cypress, and boxwoods.

Hollies and rhododendrons are good evergreen choices for coarse-textured shrubs. The small planting area below features 'Gold Mop' cypress, rhododendron, dwarf holly and barberry.

Vinca vine looks stunning paired with the right shrubs.

Cover Ground
Enhance a shrub's textural interest by underplanting with groundcovers that have contrasting textures. Randy suggests trying plants such as sedum or liriope.

Even everyday vinca vine looks stunning paired with the right shrubs, including the 'Crimson Pygmy' barberry and 'Little Giant' dwarf arborvitae.

Deer avoid barberry and butterfly bush

Beat Deer
If your area has a deer problem, work with shrubs that deer typically don't eat, Randy says. "Nothing is 100 percent deerproof, but generally you're safe with spruces, hollies, boxwood and barberry," he says.

Butterfly bush also resists deer and in the Mid-Atlantic reaches shrub proportions in summer. It makes a pretty deer-resistant combination paired with 'Rosy Glow' barberry.

More Shrubs in the Landscape
Check out this video to learn the basics of shrub texture and how I use shrubs to add textural interest in my garden.