"Interesting" is a characteristic I look for every time I invest in a new tree or shrub. In my landscape I want plants that do more than sit pretty or produce colorful blooms. I look for characteristics that set them apart from other plants: soft, spiky, glossy leaves; interesting bark; cool shapes; etc. This is what I call "texture," and shrubs have it!
Shrubs are necessary ingredients in keeping a landscape attractive, especially when you know how to showcase their characteristics without losing them in the sea of sameness. Once you start playing shrub textures against each other, magical things happen.
One of my favorite shrubs is Cotinus 'Grace' smoke bush . I love it alone, but when I planted it next to 'Carol Mackie' daphne, suddenly both came alive. The daphne's variegated edging, with tinges of pastel pink, blended beautifully with the pinkish stems and undertones of the smoke bush. Both produce puffs of pink flowers as crowning touches.
I think the contrast between color and texture is a match made in heaven, and I must admit the combo, below, wasn't totally planned. Once I saw the common ninebark 'Center Glow' mingle with the globe blue spruce, I knew I had something.
It's not all about combinations to make texture work. This Black Lace Sambuca does it all on its own. The rich, intense, almost black color is a wonderful focal point. Add the elongated, finely cut leaves and suddenly it's "Wow!" The crowning touch appears with soft-pink flowers later garnished with reddish berries. I love it. But so do deer. (Liquid Fence deer repellant sprayed every 14 days seems to keep the midnight diners at bay.)
Another favorite that brings out the oohs and ahhs is Tiger Eyes Sumac. No matter where I plant this--and I have many--the fiery, golden leaves add a wonderful pop of excitement, especially in my partly shaded wooded garden.
And of course I can't talk about texture in the landscape without mentioning junipers and boxwoods. These hardy shrubs work endlessly keeping peace and stability in the garden. They come in an array of colors, sizes and shapes, making them easy additions to any landscape. When planted wisely, they too can steal the show, as you see them wrapped around boulders.
Here are some of my other favorite shrubs that are texture- driven machines in the landscape:
Japanese barberry 'Crimson Pygmy'
Fragrant sumac 'Grow-Low'
Salix 'Nana' Blue Arctic Willow
Rhododendron 'Pink Tip'
Southern bush honeysuckle Cool Splash
Purple beautyberry 'Issai'
Lace shrub 'Crispa'
For more about adding texture with shrubs, watch my video.