Attractive Large Shrubs With Four Season Interests

Making a garden interesting through the year starts by selecting shrubs with multiple interest or attractive features such as beautiful flowers, colorful fruit, exfoliating bark, or outstanding fall color. Now is a great time to select shrubs for planting this fall. During the fall, the soil temperature is warm enough that shrubs can concentrate energy into root growth while air temperature is cooling as not to induce heat stress. This helps a plant overcome the shock of transplanting- the number one reason most plants die in the landscape during the first season. This list of shrubs contains some common and not-so-common plants to help add four season interest to your garden.

Arnold Promise Witchhazel (Hamamelis X intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’) is a large shrub with long-lasting blooms first appearing in late January to mid-February. This shrub reaches a height of 15 to 20 feet tall and spread of over 15 feet. The cultivar ‘Arnold Promise’ is one of the best yellow flowering witchhazels. The small yellow flowers have thin, narrow petals which twist. The fall leaf color is reddish-purple. This shrub can be a real problem solver for that space under old shade trees.

Koreanspice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii) is a medium shrub with pleasantly fragrant flowers which open in April to early May. The flower buds are dark pink to red, but open to reveal a white bloom. The tube-shaped flowers are produced in rounded clusters 2 to 3 inches across. Small fruit produced on this plant turn from red to black in August. Foliage color brightens to a showy red in the fall. Koreanspice has a rounded shape and may reach from 5 to 8 feet tall and 4 to 8 feet wide. This is a great deciduous shrub to use along the foundation or fence lines or in places where its sweet fragrance can be enjoyed.

Another great viburnum is Mowhawk (Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Mowhawk’). This fragrant viburnum is a rugged performer that naturalizes well with eastern natives. In the spring the flower buds show dark red for several weeks before they open with a white bloom inundated with a spicy clove fragrance. These flowers bear red fruits that mature to black in the fall and are a valued food source for birds. It is a moderate grower to 7 feet tall and wide and its foliage offers a fall display of red and gold.

The native Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus) is technically a slow growing shrub reaching 15 to 20 feet tall but is often pruned into a single trunk tree form. Its fragrant fringe-like whitish blooms are backed by soft green leaves in early May to June. This species has male and female flowers on different plants. The male plants are showier in bloom than female plants, but do not produce fruit. Female plants have flowers and abundant dark blue fruits that are about two-thirds of an inch long. Both a male and female fringe tree is required for fruit. Fall color is a clear yellow. The fringe tree is a prized accent for the landscape but sadly underused.

The Sparkleberry Winterberry (Illex verticillata ‘Sparkleberry’) is a deciduous holly shrub that naturally reaches 8 to 10 feet tall and wide. It has an oval form with rich, deep green foliage but most importantly develops loads of bright red berries from late summer to early fall. Tolerant to wet or dry soils, it has best berry set in full sun. Hollies are another plant that requires male and females for berry set.

Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) is a moderate growing shrub 3 to 5 feet in height. In June and July, fragrant, white flowers are arranged on a spike-like stem to form a 2- to 6-inch-long flower cluster. The leaves are dark green in the summer and change to an outstanding show of reddish purple, scarlet and crimson in the fall. Virginia Sweetspire prefers soil that holds moisture. It can be planted in full sun or shade.

For more information, contact the Christian County Cooperative Extension Service, 270-886-6328.