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Southern California Gardening: Viva la Shrub!

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Learn about the many versatile ways to use shrubs in your landscape from Lowe’s Southern California garden contributor.

white flowers on fence

By Bonnie Jo Manion

Shrubs are so versatile and useful in a landscape for many interesting purposes. Choose shrubs to match your particular garden style and color palette. Here are some of my top ways to use shrubs in a dynamic way for a landscape:

1) Shrubs as a focal point. What better way to create a friendly entrance to your home than the timeless beauty of a charming ‘Sally Holmes’ rose in full bloom. This beauty is a showstopper. It blooms profusely spring to summer, and even has interesting rose hips as an attraction come winter. Choose shrubs that have that “viva la shrub” appeal for special places in your garden that garner attention with an exclamation point. This beauty is a showstopper (see photo above).

Ceanothus ‘Concha’

2) Shrubs that lend vibrant seasonal color. A great example of this in Southern California is the California lilac (Ceanothus ‘Concha’) in full bloom. In late winter you can count on a magnificent display of 1-in dark-blue flower clusters. This is one of the best Ceanothus for the garden for its hardiness and outstanding color. Plant it next to a white stucco wall as a suitable backdrop, and its bloom is unforgettable. It blooms for about three weeks and then returns to its lacy, green foliage the rest of the year.

Boxwood hedge

3) Shrubs that create year-round structure. They can even define garden rooms for your landscape. Boxwood (Buxus) is a no-fail evergreen requiring little maintenance, other than pruning to keep its shape. It is a great example of using shrubs to define specific areas of your garden and can help define traffic flow. Boxwood is great for creating hedges and containers. Shown here in my garden is African boxwood (Myrsine africana). I also like the variety ‘Green Beauty’ boxwood (Buxus microphylla japonica ‘Green Beauty’). When you want an even smaller compact hedge, try dwarf varieties of euonymus.


Bougainvillea and Plumbago

4) Shrubs that provide subtle screening. Shrubs that provide screening can be key in a garden setting. You might want to screen a chain-link fence, a close neighbor, or an unsightly element. Screening might simply be used for privacy. Cape plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) is an excellent screening shrub that covers a lot of area with its 6-ft tall, 8-ft wide habit. It has a long bloom season. Judicial pruning in the winter controls its growth and shapely form. This is a nice low-maintenance shrub, if you have the room.

5) Shrubs that provide protection such as bougainvillea. This evergreen has many attributes, such as brilliant color and easy maintenance, and sharp thorns defend against trespassing animals and people. Bougainvillea is a very shapeable shrub and can become thick and dense.

Shrubs add interest and versatility in your garden. Consider the many unique ways of utilizing shrubs in your garden for design and practicality.

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