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Great Shrubs For Spring Color

My garden relies heavily on shrubs and small trees for spring color; nothing in the landscape is easier or more reliable to produce swathes of fresh, bright foliage and lovely flowers.Shrub border by the patio, April 2016

The azaleas have been gorgeous, though most of their blooms are past their prime now. The bright red-orange azalea in the following photo is the evergreen Karume azalea 'Hershey Orange.'

'Autumn Fire' is a new Encore azalea recently planted by the parking area in front of the house. Although it is fabulous in the fall, it is just as spectacular in spring:Encore 'Autumn Fire' azaleas bloom in front of dwarf Yaupon Holly.

Viburnum macrocephalum, commonly called Chinese Snowball Viburnum, is another shrub blooming prolifically at present:

Behind and to the right of the Snowball viburnum in the image above is Philadelphus, commonly called Mock Orange or English Dogwood, just beginning to bloom:

Next to the patio is this lovely weeping lace leaf Japanese maple:

Most of my roses are low-maintenance, work horse type roses, but I think they are all beautiful. They are just beginning to bloom in the front garden. Here are a couple:Rosa 'Mutabilis', also called butterfly rose

Rosa Rugosa 'Alba'

Caryopteris incana 'Jason' glows near the patio. Later this summer it will have blue flowers that attract butterflies:

Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku', also called Coral Bark Maple, grows in the arbor garden:

Spreading Yew is another favorite in the woodland garden. I love how its lime green new growth contrasts with its darker bluish-green needles:


Cryptomeria japonica 'Tansu' is a dwarf Japanese cedar in the woodland garden. It has stiff, somewhat prickly evergreen foliage:

Here are more of my favorite shrubs for foliage:Clockwise from top left: Variegated osmanthus; Pieris japonica; Juniper 'Saybrook Gold'; Variegated Japanese pittosporum; Sambucus 'Lemony Lace'; Spirea 'Goldflame'; Variegated hydrangea; Deodar cedar 'Feelin' Blue.'

Finally, I am enjoying the sweet honeysuckle fragrance and pretty blooms of deciduous azaleas in the woodland garden. I have planted several varieties so that they will be blooming at different times from now into summer:


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Reader Comments (21)

Gosh, your garden looks so stunningly designed! I can only imagine how amazing it is in person. From your photos throughout the year, I can tell it's incredible in every season.

April 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBeth @ Plantpostings

You have lots of color and texture in your spring garden. It looks very full and lush. I love the native azaleas in the woodland setting! We have several of the coral bark maples and they fabulous 4 season tree.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKarin/Southern Meadows

What a wonderful selection, you are way ahead of us here! My Evergreen Azalea is only just starting to flower and my Acer Sango kaku is still holding it's buds tightly closed. Shrubs are a wonderful way to bring interest to the garden after the early spring bulbs, before a lot of perennials start and you have so much interest, fantastic!

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPauline

wow is an overused word, but, WOW!
The snowball was my MIL's favourite.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Studer

Yes the woodland setting is very pretty. Lots of colors and textures . My reply-He used to can years ago. Now his Dad gets 2 large boxes of Sanmarzanos each summer to make sauce to freeze, Husband does the same. He has many varieties of Heirlooms. BTW our neighbors and friends love us. lol

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPatsi

As usual, yyour garden looks splendid, Deb! We don't usually share many plants in common but I noticed 3 in just this one post: Rosa 'Mutabilis', Acer 'Sango Kaku' and the variegated Pittosporum. I envy you your Philadelphus (which I tried once and killed) and, even more so, the lovely azaleas. I had a few of the latter in my old shady garden but they didn't thrive even there and our water restrictions put them out of the running here now.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

Your photos provide such a great example of how beautiful shrub borders can be. I'm planning both a couple of shrub borders and several mixed borders in my new front garden, so I appreciate such an inspiring model.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJean

Beautiful shots Deb, love that colour in the Azalea, the garden is looking gorgeous at this time of year, Autumn and Spring are really the best seasons for gardeners.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

How lucky you are to be able to grow azaleas and rhododendrons where you live! My soil is too alkaline. I tried rhododendrons for a few years, and they slowly faded away. I can see those red ones are going to be real show stoppers when they grow up larger.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

You know, I always forget how beautiful Caryopteris foliage can be in the Spring.

Thanks for highlighting the fact that Caryopteris can have mult-season appeal! :)

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAaron Dalton

Your garden is already very colorful now, unlike some blogger friend gardens which are still with snow. Even your foliage are so varied that they really are sometimes as beautiful as blooms.

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I so agree on the importance of shrubs in the landscape for color and texture, especially in spring. You woodland looks like a tapestry each year. Some garden bloggers don't use shrubs and depend only on perennials. When they get to a certain age, they may realize using shrubs will reduce the work in a garden. Aches and pains of dividing, cutting back and fall clean up usually does the trick.

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDonna @ GWGT

The design of your garden is really fantastic Deb. The shrubs you have used are all so lovely and they all seem to blend so well together to give such a seamless look. I loved the deciduous azaleas - I have read so much about them that I really should see if I can grow them here. I know that Caryopteris is a really pretty shrub too so I was interested to see that you grow that too. I knew that your garden would be beautiful in spring and this just confirms it!
Have a lovely weekend!
- Kate x

April 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKate R

Spring is special in every way; your garden is looking wonderful (it does in every season) all the textures of the different foliage working together to a create a tapestry of colour and form.

April 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

I love that bright green color of new growth! The azaleas are so pretty there, and you have so many nice contrasting shrubs together. That Chinese Snowball is impressive!

April 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

Azaleas are beautiful, but I won't even try to grow them here. I do have a mock orange, and I've been trying to revive it after it was almost strangled by a privet. I do have a bunch of Viburnums of different species, though not the one you have.

April 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Oooh, I love your 'Autumn Fire', I am looking for evergreen azaleas for my Japanese inspired bed and got some of the encores on my wish-list, but I haven’t bought any yet. ‘Debutante’ and ‘Starlite’ are nice too – so many to choose from :-) Loved your acer, I wish I had room for many more, but I need to choose ONE more, a tall but slim one – still searching for the most spectacular one in terms of leaf colour!
It’s always a treat to visit your garden, have a good Sunday :-)

April 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHelene

Just beautiful!! What a great way to usher in spring!

April 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCasa Mariposa

Oh such a beautiful swing with arbor! You have done such an amazing job with this space - offering a calm, restful respite but yet keeping it wild and natural. Such wonderful viewing. I have always loved your selection of plants - such thoughtful woven tapestries of textures and colors. I am so glad you stopped by to remind me to visit your beautiful garden!

You're going to love the native azaleas! They look beautiful now and the sweet fragrance is an added bonus.

Do you know the name of the lavender azalea in the background of the third picture?

I love the depth of color in the Encore Fire azaleas.

April 23, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay

Hello, everyone! I appreciate each of you. Thanks for all your comments! Sweetbay, that azalea is George Lindley Tabor. Deb

April 24, 2016 | Registered CommenterDeborah Elliott

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