Native Shrubs For Your Landscape

story & photo by Cindy Gilberg

Shrubs are an integral part of the overall picture when it comes to creating structure in good garden design. They serve to visually fill the ‘middle ground’ and help to unify the larger structural elements such as the house, patio and trees. Walls and fences can be softened with plantings of shrubs and masses of lower growing shrubs can be used as “ground cover” plantings in combination with small trees and perennials. There are many Missouri native shrubs, too numerous to describe here, that are great choices to include in the landscape.

An excellent performer for woodland gardens is wild hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens). Also tolerant of a fair amount of sun, this 4 ft. tall shrub has large, flat clusters of white flowers lighten up the shade in June and last for much of the summer. Wild hydrangea, when planted in large sweeps, is useful for naturalizing and is an effective low-maintenance planting. Pruning, while not necessary, can be done in late winter to remove old flower stems, rejuvenate the plants and improve the overall appearance. Because of its large leaves hydrangea is perfect for planting with fine to medium textured plants such as ferns, sedges ( Carex sp.), Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica) and black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa).

Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) earns its name every September when its long branches are laden with clusters of brilliant, magenta berries. Most years the cardinals and other songbirds will consume the berries by December. This exceptional, 4′ tall native shrub does quite well in full sun to light shade with an organic-rich soil and average moisture. The light blue flowers of aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolius) are a pleasant compliment to the colorful berries.

For those who like to add edible plants to the landscape, there are a few choices. New Jersey tea (Ceonathus americana) is a small, white-flowering shrub that thrives in dry soil and full sun. The dried leaves of this 2-3 ft. tall shrub make a delightful tea that was popular during the Revolutionary War. Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is becoming quite popular due to the high content of anti-oxidants in its ripe fruit. In late spring, white flower clusters appear on this 6 ft. shrub. The fruit is astringent and sour when ripe, and is best eaten after processing it into juice, jam, pies or syrup. If you are looking for a larger shrub, try nannyberry (Viburnum lentago). It is adaptable to both moist and dry soils as well as sites in either sun or light shade. Of all the viburnums, it has the most delicious fruit.

Any of these shrubs can enhance your landscape with seasonal attributes such as flowers or berries while also providing food and habitat for wildlife, especially birds and insects, including butterflies. In addition, a well-adapted native shrub can often be just what you need – an excellent, hardy, low maintenance choice for your garden. To learn about other native shrubs that can enhance your landscape, join in the Native Plant School’s class July 12 or 13 on Small Flowering Trees, Shrubs and Vines. (www.shawnature.org).
Cindy Gilberg, Gilberg Design and Consulting

2906 Ossenfort Road, Wildwood, MO 63038
314-630-1004 cindy.gilberg@gmail.com