From the April/May 2018 Issue

Year-Round Color

Writer DesignNJ

Shrubs can be the unsung hero of your landscape.

The goal of having a colorful landscape year-round in New Jersey may be easier than you think with a little planning, a little work and a little help from Mother Nature. Annuals and perennials are often the go-to solution for color in at least three seasons of the year. But shrubs can offer year-round color, thanks to berries and brightly colored branches that stand out in a winter landscape. Here we highlight three shrubs for each season. A landscape professional can suggest even more options and help with acquiring, planting and maintaining if you don’t have time to do it yourself.


SPRING

Left: Photo by Famartin; Center: Photo by Marc Ryckaert; Right: Photo by Neptuul

FLOWERING QUINCE (left)
Features: Deciduous. Flowering quince attracts hummingbirds; unfortunately, it also attracts rabbits.
Color: Red, pink or orange.
Size: The Double Take™ series, popular in the New Jersey growing region, grows 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide, though some older varieties are larger.
Bloom Time: Early spring.
Requirements: Full sun, well-drained loam soil.
Use: Good in groups along borders.
Pruning: Prune after blooming ends as needed to keep stems from becoming tangled.

FORSYTHIA (center)
Alternate Names: Border forsythia, golden bells.
Features: Deciduous, members of the olive family, flowers precede leaves.
Color: Yellow.
Size: Cultivars range from 1 to 10 feet.
Bloom Time: Early spring.
Requirements: Full sun, well-drained soil.
Use: Good for defining borders or along a fence. Can be used as a specimen plant but leafing is not particularly full.
Pruning: Avoid the temptation to create a forsythia “dumpling” with severe pruning. The branches should arch for a pleasing effect.

WITCH HAZEL (right)
Features: Deciduous. The flowers have a spicy fragrance. Sometimes called a tree because they can grow tall if left unpruned (in fact, a wild version is classified as a tree). Yellow or orange autumn foliage.
Color: Yellow.
Size: Up to 12 feet.
Bloom Time: Early spring, though some may bloom in late winter if the weather is warmer than normal.
Requirements: Full sun or partial shade, well-drained soil.
Use: Place in view of windows to enjoy the bright yellow flowers during the gray days of winter.
Pruning: Prune dead or tangled branches after the flowers die off; you also can prune to control the size, though it has an attractive vase shape if left unpruned.


SUMMER

Left: Photo by Invertzoo; Center: Photo by Kenpei; Right: Photo by Raul654

TREE PEONIES (left)
Features: Deciduous. Despite the name, they are classified as sub-shrubs. Deer resistant.
Color: Mostly red, pink and yellow.
Size: 5 to 10 feet, depending on the cultivar. They are slow growers.
Bloom Time: May to mid-June.
Requirements: Full sun to dappled shade and well-drained soil.
Use: Specimen plantings and group plantings that need some height.
Pruning: Typically, you don’t need to prune except to remove dead branches in early spring.

SUMMERSWEET (center)
Alternate Names: Sweet pepperbush, coastal sweet pepperbush, clethra.
Features: Deciduous. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies and has a sweet fragrance.
Color: White, pink or rose.
Size: Generally 4 to 8 feet tall.
Bloom Time: July and August.
Requirements: Full sun to partial shade in acidic, moist soil.
Use: Can be planted in urban areas because it tolerates salt spray from streets.
Pruning: Not needed.

HYDRANGEA (right)
Features: Deciduous. Hydrangeas offer a variety of flower shapes. Bigleaf hydran­geas include Mophead (think florists’ hydrangea), Lacecap (little buds in the center surrounded by open blossoms along the perimeter) and Mountain (similar to but smaller than Mopheads). Panicle hydran­geas have cone-shaped flower heads. Smoother hydrangeas are similar to Mopheads but the leaves are heart shaped and have a coarser texture. Oakleaf hydrangeas are so named because of the shape of their leaves. Climbing hydrangeas are native to Asia but are becoming more popular in the United States because they can climb and because of their large blooms. Some newer types rebloom.
Color: White, pink, blue, purple and green.
Size: from 1 foot to 12 feet, depending on variety.
Bloom Time: Summer into autumn.
Requirements: Sun to shade, dry to moist soil, depending on variety.
Use: Specimen plantings, property borders, plant groupings (smaller varieties).
Pruning: Prune dead branches at the end of the season.


AUTUMN

Left: courtesy of Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society/James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service; Center: Photo by Laitche; Right: Photo by Jean-Pol Grandmont

VIBURNUM (left)
Family Ties: The viburnum genus has more than 150 species (Viburnum rufidulum is pictured).
Features: Deciduous. They attract butterflies and birds.
Color: Red foliage and blue berries in autumn; clusters of white flowers in spring.
Size: 6 to 15 feet.
Requirements: Full sun to shade; they tolerate a range of soils, including wet and acidic and full sun to shade, depending on variety. Remove suckers from the ground to keep the shrub contained.
Use: Specimen plantings, property borders.
Pruning: Once per year after the flowers die. Remove any branches with a row of dark spots on the underside, indicating viburnum leaf beetles.

BEAUTYBERRY (center)
Features: Deciduous. Part of the verbena family. Birds like the berries. Popular with President Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.
Color: Purple.
Size: 4 to 6 feet tall.
Bloom Time: Pinkish to light purple flowers in summer mature into light purple berries in autumn.
Requirements: None other than water during a long drought.
Use: Specimen plantings or in borders. Multiple plantings will increase berry production.
Pruning: Late winter for shaping.

DWARF FOTHERGILLA (right)
Alternate Name: Bottlebrush.
Features: Deciduous. The red-orange-yellow color of the autumn leaves is so intense the shrub can appear to be on fire.
Color: Red-orange-yellow leaves in autumn; white flowers that look like little bottle brushes in spring.
Size: 3 to 5 feet tall.
Bloom Time: Flowers in spring, red-orange leaves in autumn.
Requirements: Full sun to partial shade and moderately moist but well-drained, acidic soil.
Use: Specimen planting, hedge.
Pruning: Only when branches are rubbing against each other, have died or are so dense that you need to open up the interior of the shrub—and only after the flowers have died.


WINTER

Left: Courtesy of USDA-NRCS Plants Database/Herman, D.E. et al. 1996; Center: Photo by David J. Stang; Right: Photo by Katja Schulz

RED TWIG DOGWOOD (left)
Features: Deciduous. In addition to bright red branches in winter, the red twig dogwood provides variegated leaves, small white flowers and berries earlier in the year. The root system is good for erosion control.
Color: Red.
Size: 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide.
Bloom Time: The branches become the focus of attention when leaves drop in late fall and remain so until spring. The red color fades and the leaves begin to grow in spring.
Requirements: Full sun for the brightest red branches. From well-drained to wet soil, though it should be somewhat acidic.
Use: Specimen or accent plants placed where you can view them to brighten dull winter days.
Pruning: Remove one-third of the older branches every three years to encourage new growth.

FALSE CYPRESS (center)
Features: Coniferous. False cypress is not a true cypress, although the shrubs and trees in this genus belong to the same family as true cypresses, junipers and arborvitae. The threadleaf group of false cypress shrubs includes the popular ‘Gold Mops,’ which retains its gold color if it gets enough sun.
Color: Bright gold foliage.
Size: 5 feet tall and 7 feet wide unless pruned.
Bloom Time: How well the foliage retains its color depends on the cultivar and the amount of sun it receives.
Requirements: Full sun and fertile, well-drained soil.
Use: Specimen planting.
Pruning: Once yearly as needed for size and shape.

WINTERBERRY HOLLY (right)
Features: Deciduous. Contrary to popular belief, not all hollies retain their green leaves all year. Also, winter­berry berries are typically more numerous and closer together than those of other hollies.
Color: Red, orange or yellow berries.
Size: 3 feet to 15 feet, depending on type and pruning.
Bloom Time: The berries take center stage when the leaves drop in late autumn until midwinter.
Requirements: Winterberry can grow in low-lying grounds, moist woods and sometimes in higher, drier soil. You will need one male plant for each five female plants.
Use: Specimen planting and mass planting.
Pruning: Once yearly as needed for size and shape.