Stick With the Classics
There are countless shrubs to choose from, with more being developed yearly by plant breeders. It’s tempting to fall for the newest or shiniest variety, but it’s wise to build the structure of your garden with tried and true performers. For me, there are three flowering shrubs that stand out amongst the landscape, as it were.
Hydrangea Paniculata ‘Grandiflora’
Hydrangeas are one of the most popular flowering shrubs for good reason, they supply large, colorful, reliable blooms and have a wide variety of bloom color and flower shape. Of all the varieties of hydrangea out there ‘Grandiflora’, or PeeGee, is a true classic (it was developed in the late 1800’s) that’s still hard to beat. PeeGee hydrangeas will take full sun or some shade and bloom on new wood, which means that they flower reliably, unlike some hydrangeas. The classic white flowers hang on well into the fall and the foliage can be a very nice gold color in fall as well. If you were going to plant one flowering shrub in your garden, this would be a good choice.
The common name of Bottlebrush Buckeye gives an insight to one of the distinguishing characteristics of this shrub. In the middle of the summer this plant is covered in large, white, bottlebrush shaped flowers. The most remarkable thing about the bottlebrush buckeye is that it will produce giant and prolific flowers even in full shade. It is, in fact, one of the only shrubs that will flower reliably in full shade – especially in mid-summer! This is a great plant if you have enough space to let it spread, it will colonize via suckers, and as such is not a good option for compact landscapes. Fall color is a rich yellow, which is especially striking in large groups.
Fothergilla X Intermedia ‘Blue Shadow’
There are other good Fothergilla available, but I really like ‘Blue Shadow’ because of the wonderful contrast the blue-green foliage offers in the garden. Fothergilla is a great three season plant, with white bottlebrush flowers in the early spring, interesting blue-green foliage during the summer, and brilliant orange, yellow, and red fall color. It can handle full sun or some shade, and it’s not a very fast grower, which means it rarely outgrows its space.