Cloak and Trowel

The spy who came in from the cold to plant a viburnum

Over the years I’ve developed a growing appreciation for small to medium-sized shrubs and the contribution they can make to the home  landscape. I suppose this appreciation is fueled mainly by laziness, as shrubs are just a lot less work than perennials. You don’t have to stake shrubs, divide shrubs, or cut them down at the end of the season (or figure out what to do with the stalks, etc.).

Unfortunately, Judy is irrationally prejudiced against shrubs, something I still don’t understand. Her dislike has prompted me to resort to clandestine shrub planting at times. I will arrive home from the garden center with something in a 5 gallon container, then check if the coast is clear. If it is, I’ll carry it as fast as I can, putting my body between the plant and the house to minimize chances of detection.

Later, while inspecting the yard, Judy will notice the new addition and ask, “Where did that come from?”

At this point I assume my most innocent expression and reply, “Oh, that? That’s been there for years.” After a certain amount of sighing and eye rolling, Judy will say, “OK, but after this, no more shrubs!”

In this way I have been able to add several snowberries, grey dogwoods, “Brilliant” serviceberries, and dwarf black chokeberries to the backyard. These complement the elderberries, serviceberries, viburnums, and wild currants I’ve put in without resorting to clandestine activity, as well as the Annabelle hydrangeas we inherited from the last owners.

Some of these have replaced the invasive buckthorn, privet, shrub honeysuckle, and siberian elm saplings I’ve taken down over the years.

I do really enjoy what my mostly native shrubs add to the home landscape. I like the creamy white lacecap flowers of the viburnums, elderberries, and shrub dogwoods, not to mention the star shaped serviceberry flowers of early spring. Most of these varieties have excellent fall color, especially the serviceberries and chokeberries. And I love the berries both for the ornamental value and the birds they attract. The red cranberrybush viburnums and the pearly white snowberries are particular favorites.

 I’ve noticed some front yard gardens that consist mostly of dwarf shrubs and ornamental grasses. They look really good and very low maintenance. In the future, I might try to make the front gardens more of a mix of shrubs and perennials – guess I should keep my trenchcoat handy.

One Comment on “Cloak and Trowel

  1. Ooh! Since you are into native shrubs, I would add one of my favorites to the list, hazelnut. The shape and color of the leaves in fall is quite spectacular. You might also get some hazelnuts as a bonus, provided you beat the squirrels to them.

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