By Mary Glazer
My shrubs are the most versatile of all of my landscape plants. They can enclose an area, divide an outdoor living space, provide privacy, soften a fence line, and take center stage; and the taller ones can offer a resting or nesting site for birds.
When planted along the perimeter of an area such as a patio, typically shorter shrubs, like boxwood (Buxus) or Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica), make for two-way visibility. For a secret garden, hidden away from the cares of the world, taller evergreen shrubs the height of small trees, like Japanese yew (Podocarpus macrophylla) or ligustrum (Ligustrum japonicum), can make for a very private area such as walls for an outdoor space.
When I was younger and lived on an acreage, my shrubs divided my yard into smaller, more manageable sections. Today, living in town, my row of holly (Ilex) creates privacy instead. I’ve always heard the expression “Good fences make for good neighbors,” but sometimes a fence, especially a chain-link, can look harsh in the landscape. A row of shrubbery softens the visual image. In my case, in front of the holly’s forest-green canvas, I grow shorter plants, which helps sets off their various colors.
Flowering shrubs, like shower-of-gold (Galphimea gracilis), Chinese fringe flower (Loropetalum chinensis), and bottlebrush (Callistemon), can be focal points in the landscape. They can break up the monotony of a lawn or serve as visual columns in a flowerbed. In addition many flowering shrubs have sparse foliage, providing a see-through-look, and work well in situations when the view beyond them is desirable. The dense foliage of an evergreen, on the other hand, works best for areas that require privacy.
In my current home I inherited a tall ligustrum planted off to the side and partially covering my living room window. Since the bush is too close to my feeders for nesting, the birds are using it as a layover lounge on their route to a quick meal, or a summertime splash in one of the birdbaths. Either way I enjoy seeing the birds up close, without intruding into their environment.
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