Favorite Shrubs of Erica Glasener and Adrian Higgins

As other garden writers offer lists of their favorite shrubs, I’ll include them here because you can never have too many great plant suggestions.

Erica Glasener on Shrubs for Shade

Horticulturist and host of “Gardener’s Diary” on HGTV recommends some less common shrubs for Fine Gardening Magazine:

  • Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) Well, that’s SO popular it can hardly be called less common these days. She suggests an underplanting of creeping phlox and evergreen Christmas fern.
  • Carolina Allspice (Calycanthus floridus) is native to the American Southeast and blooms in spring and then intermittently through the season. Fragrant, and highly resistant to pests and diseases. Prefers moist soil. Hardy in Zones 5-9. It can g row to 6-9 feet tall and 6-12 feet wide. Glasener suggests an underplanting of Japanese painted fern or purple heucheras. Photo above by Missouri Botanic Garden.
  • Prostrate Japanese plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Prostrata’). This evergreen always looks good, grows to only 2-3 feet high and wide and unlike common yews, is deer-resistant. Hardy in Zones 5-8.
  • Aucuba is another evergreen that’s common as crabgrass in my neighborhood — but much better looking, and because people want it. This shrub-for-shade is also happy in sun.
  • Black jetbead (Rhodotypos scandens) is one I’d never heard of. It grows to 6 feet tall by 9 feet wide, is hardy in Zones 5-8, and also thrives in both shade and sun. Has small white flowers in spring and black fruit that persist through the winter.
  • Florida leucothoe (Leucothoe populifolia) is native to the Southeast but in Mid-Atlantic gardens I have to say it fairs poorly. SO poorly I’ve had to get rid of the 5-6 I once grew. Clients regularly ask me what’s wrong with theirs and I suggest choosing a better-performing plant instead. The problem? Winter dieback AND fungal diseases — not a pretty sight.
  • Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) is another native shrub but this one IS a winner in my book.
  • Variegated fiveleaf aralia (Eleutherococcus sieboldianus ‘Variegatus’) grows to 8 feet high and wide and is hardy in Zones 4-8. Great in sun or shade. Glasener recommends pairing it with some large blue hostas.

Adrian Higgins’s Favorites

Primary garden writer for the Washington Post and widely admired, Higgins profiled large shrubs in January of 2006 in an article called “Think Big for the Year Ahead: Stout Shrubs Can be the Building Blocks of a Landscape.” Darn right they can.

Large-shrub Favorites

  • Acuba, camellias, hollies, osmanthus and mountain laurel for brightening up dark spots.
  • Singled out by the hort community for excellence are the five-leaf aralia and the ‘Limelight’ panicle hydrangea.
  • Tardiva (photo right), another excellent panicle-type hydrangea, which Higgins thinks is underused. Lacecap and mophead hydrangeas are terrific and Higgins suggests multiplying their effect by planting three, five or even seven together. YES! He also likes the smooth hydrangea ‘Annabelle.’
  • Roses meriting a recommendation as shrubs are the large, hardy rugosas and the old-fashioned ‘Alba Maxima’ and ‘Charles de Mills’.
  • “Bush clover” or Lespedeza (a favorite of mine, too) Higgins calls “perfect.” It grows fast — full size in 2-3 years — and stays put. Good varieties are ‘White Fountain,’ ‘Summer Beauty,’ and the one I can vouch for, ‘Gibralter.’