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For a larger garden or to provide height at the back of a bed, decent sized shrubs (1.5-3m height and spread) can offer great structure and function. Large evergreen shrubs also offer screening and provide privacy. Deciduous shrubs offer practical opportunities to provide shade and shelter in gardens too small for trees. Unlike many trees shrubs respond well to pruning.
Our top 5 large shrubs for year round interest
Normally at least a third of the shrubs in a border will be evergreen or semi-evergreen. This lends a strong structure, even in winter.
This selection consists of widely available, medium to larger shrubs for general garden use.
See our additional advice page for a selection of smaller shrubs for year round interest.
Before choosing a shrub it is important to understand your garden. Here are a few points to consider before making your choice;
A suitable soil test (RHS Soil Analysis Service) will help identify the soil texture and acidity or alkalinity which will influence the range of suitable plants. Acid-loving (lime-hating) or ericaceous shrubs grow best in a pH range of 4-6, and ideally pH 5-5.5.
Shrubs have been chosen with an emphasis on flowering qualities and there are many other good shrubs for autumn colour or winter berries. Plants are grouped by season of flowering.
f = femalem = malev = variegated
a) EvergreenBerberis darwinii AGM, B. ‘Goldilocks’ Camellia japonica, C. × williamsii (many) – lime hatingCeanothus ‘Puget Blue’ AGMChoisya ternata AGMGarrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ (m) AGMOsmanthus delavayi AGM, O. × burkwoodii AGMPieris ‘Firecrest’ AGM – lime hatingPoncirus trifoliataRhododendron (many) including deciduous azaleas – lime hating (size 2.5-4m) (size 4-8m)
b) DeciduousBerberis × ottawensis ‘Superba’ Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Moerloosii’ AGMCornus mas Cytisus multiflorus, C. scopariusDeutzia × hybrida ‘Mont Rose’ AGM, D. × rosea ‘Carminea’ AGMEnkianthus campanulatus AGMForsythia × intermedia ‘Lynwood’ AGM – lime hatingMagnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’ AGM – lime hatingMagnolia stellata ‘Water Lily’ AGMPaeonia ludlowii(s) Ribes sanguineum ‘Pulborough Scarlet’ AGMStachyurus praecox AGMViburnum × burkwoodii ‘Fulbrook’
a) EvergreenEscallonia ‘Donard Seedling’, E. ‘Peach Blossom’ AGMHebe ‘Great Orme’ AGM (slightly tender)Hypericum ‘Hidcote’ AGM, H. ‘Rowallane’ AGMPyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ AGMRosmarinus officinalis ‘Miss Jessopp’s Upright’ AGM
b) DeciduousAbelia × grandiflora Buddleja alternifolia AGM, B. davidiiCeanothus × delileanus ‘Gloire de Versailles’ AGMFuchsia ‘Riccartonii’ AGM (slightly tender)Kerria japonica ‘Pleniflora’ AGMKolkwitzia amabilis ‘Pink Cloud’ AGMPhiladelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ AGM, P. ‘Virginal’ AGMRosa (many shrub roses)Spartium junceum AGMSpiraea nipponica ‘Snowmound’ AGMSyringa × josiflexa ‘Bellicent’ AGM, S. vulgaris ‘Katherine Havemeyer’ AGM, S. ‘Madame Lemoine’ AGMTamarix ramosissima ‘Pink Cascade’Viburnum plicatum ‘Grandiflorum’Weigela ‘Mont Blanc’
a) EvergreenOsmanthus heterophyllus ‘Variegatus’ AGMViburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ AGM
b) DeciduousAbelia × grandiflora Berberis × ottawensis ‘Superba’Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii AGMCotinus ‘Flame’ AGMCotoneaster bullatus AGMHibiscus syriacus ‘Hamabo’ AGM, H. ‘Woodbridge’ AGMHydrangea macrophylla ‘Altona’ AGM, H. paniculata ‘Grandiflora’Rosa ‘Geranium’ (moyseii hybrid) AGM, R. sericea subsp. omeiensis f. pteracantha
a) EvergreenCotoneaster lacteus (berries) AGMMahonia × media ‘Charity’, M. japonica AGM
b) DeciduousLonicera fragrantissimaHamamelis × intermedia ‘Jelena’ AGM, H. mollis ‘Pallida’ AGM – lime hatingSymphoricarpos orbiculatusViburnum × bodnantense ‘Deben’ AGM, V. ‘Dawn’ AGM, V. farreri (syn. V. fragrans) AGM
a) EvergreenElaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’ (v) AGMFatsia japonica AGMIlex aquifolium ‘Handsworth New Silver’ (f/v) AGMPhotinia × fraseri ‘Red Robin’ AGMPrunus lusitanica ‘Variegata’
b) DeciduousCornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ (v) AGM, C. ‘Spaethii’ (v) AGM, C. mas ‘Variegata’ AGMCotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple’ AGMSambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’ AGM
RHS Find a Plant
The Timber Press Encyclopedia of Flowering Shrubs by Jim Gardiner (Timber Press 2011, ISBN 978-0881928235)
The book is made available through the RHS Lindley Library.
Buying: trees and shrubsGarden design: sources of informationShrubsShrubs: evergreen by sizeShrubs: evergreen for specific situationsShrubs: smaller for year round interestShrubs: pruning evergreensTrees and shrubs: colourful foliageTrees and shrubs: plantingTrees and shrubs: variegated foliageTrees for smaller gardens10 AGM shrubs for autumn berries10 AGM winter flowering shrubs
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