Sometimes shrubs are misunderstood as dull and insignificant players in the garden. In truth shrubs perform as textural backdrops for other foliage, spots of interest as specimens, or a friendly barricade for privacy.
Many shrubs flower seasonally and produce food for wildlife. They help build the structural, foundational base and provide enduring results through every season in a Gulf Coast Garden. The range of size, color and formation is practically limitless, giving a gardener's imagination far-reaching reign.
Keep the style of your garden in mind when choosing shrubs. I look for cold-hardy, drought-tolerant natives and also regionally adapted varieties. For a structurally sound garden I select shrubs that function well all year long.
Native shrubs, such as saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), grow naturally at the base of oak trees. Their upright, fanlike configuration bursts with textural and tropical flare. Saw palmetto is a slow-growing evergreen that equally withstands dry conditions and freezing temperatures. Palmettos make an excellent natural privacy screen when grouped together with other shrubs and perennials.
My garden leans toward a naturalistic impression. Rather than neatly trimmed hedges I opt for free-flowing effects, with lush layers of foliage and shrubs. Firebush (Hamelia patens), a delightful flowering native, fits perfectly into this framework. It has multiple trunks, with attractive reddish-tinged leaves and brilliant-orange-red tubular blooms. In spring and summer hummingbirds and butterflies frequent the flowers for nectar. Berries that form in autumn attract wildlife.
American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) boasts clumps of minuscule pale-pink flowers in spring. These sprawling native shrubs need minimal attention and irrigation yet provide interest all year long. In late summer flowers give way to tight clusters of stunning, metallic-purple berries that, when ripe, feed voracious birds.
If we lived in a world with only foliage to plant, I'd be content. Textural, colorful, diverse shrubs are essential components to the framework of a garden. Whether you plant an individual flowering shrub as an accent, or groupings for higher impact, shrubs add to the substance and structure of every-style garden.
For a closer look at shrubs in my Gulf Coast garden, watch my video.