By Marianne Binetti
Bushes and shrubs work hard in my garden, and you can make your woody plants do double and even triple duty. Lazy gardeners should love the flexible work schedules and adaptable personalities of these easygoing shrubs for the Pacific Northwest.
Pieris japonica ‘Variegata’ can add some brightness to a shaded spot. When placed in front of the dark-green pyramidal arborvitae hedge, its variegated foliage really pops. You can see that the evergreen pyramidal hedge in the background supports a crown of purple clematis.
But wait, there’s more! I also make my Pieris, with clusters of tiny white blooms, the support system for a floppy old-fashioned rosebush. Talk about a marriage of convenience! Stiff, upright shrubs near floppy plants mean you don’t have to stake and tie.
Pot up your troubles. False cypress (Chamaecyparis) fills a pot with yearlong color, and the naturally tall and narrow form of any columnar evergreen adds a formal look to large pots in a front yard or entry. Shrubs are happy for years in large pots. Although the potted shrub is young, there is plenty of room around the roots to add annuals and perennials for extra summer color.
You don’t need a lattice for your clematis. I use heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) to hold the plant’s fragile stems. Its starry blooms make a great display against the delicate foliage of the adaptable nandina. Clematis is my go-to vine to liven up any shrub that lacks color or character, and the thin branches of nandina make it easy for twining vines to grab. As a bonus the shrub’s evergreen foliage helps hide the clematis’ brown stems in winter.
Be bold with barberry (Berberis). Nobody can kill this drought-resistant, deer-resistant, and versatile shrub. These tough guys come in red, burgundy, and gold, as well as dwarf, weeping, and upright forms. Group three barberries together for a bold color splash. Spiky barberries also do double duty as security guards around low windows.
I like to edge my brick courtyard with a formal hedge, but I don’t use boxwood. My mini hedge is the ground-hugging wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) because all it takes is one haircut a year with a string trimmer to keep this low, evergreen hedge in shape. Euonymus is less expensive and fills in faster than boxwood, without the skunky odor. In spring I have daffodils that pop up through the euonymous hedge. When the daffodil flowers fade, the evergreen foliage hides the mess of their ripening leaves.
My shrubs work hard so I don’t have to. What shrubs do you enlist for double duty?
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