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10 Best Things about Shrubs - Bushes. Why to Plant Them


I am already thinking that I have set myself an impossible task with this page title. Not because it will be difficult to think of ten good things about shrubs, but because it will be difficult to limit the advantages of growing shrubs to just 10 choices!

I have grown shrubs as a nurseryman; I have sold shrubs as a garden center owner; I have planted shrubs as a gardener and not least, I have studied shrubs as a plant photographer.

So, the following list will come as a result of around 40 years of professionally dealing with shrubs, or bushes, as sometimes called.

Most of my mails asking for help and advice, have been relating to shrubs. This is not because shrubs are hard to look after, or subject to an unfair range of problems. It is simply because they are not always understood. The gardening trade would do well to address this lack of knowledge or information if they want to increase turnover, and make a lot of friends in the process. But that is for another article, not here.

Overall versatility and wide range of choices make shrubs one of the most attractive propositions for the garden. Climbing shrubs; Groundcover shrubs; winter or summer flowering; and of course spring; amazing foliage; good container plants; easy of maintenance; the list could go on.

Landscaping with Shrubs.

Acer - Japanes maple red and orange foliage Potentilla fruiticosa Vilmoriniana  Callycarpa bodineri var. giraldii 'Profusion'

Acer palmatum Osia-Beni autumn  |  Potentilla fruiticosa Vilmoriniana  |  Callicarpa bodineri var. giraldii 'Profusion

Many enlightened garden designers, utilise the versatility of shrubs in their garden landscape designs. Not without good reason, for shrubs will often give an 'instant' effect. Some would argue that a garden without shrubs leaves much to be desired!

 1.   When you buy a shrub, it is a one-off purchase that will give years of pleasure or purpose.

  • This may seem a strange number one on the list, but it is often the reason why people do NOT buy shrubs.  It is not always appreciated how much work and investment has gone into the production of shrubs that you see in the garden centre. Some will have been grown at the nursery for two or three years. Much longer in the case of slower growing shrubs. Realise also, that your shrub will normally fill more space than a car boot full of bedding plants – and for year after year!
  • 2.   Shrubs are easy to grow and care for.

  • Providing that you plant your shrub in the right place, most shrubs are relatively maintenance free – especially when compared with other plants in the garden, such as herbaceous perennials and annual bedding plants. Pruning is often seen as a problem, or even a reason not to plant shrubs. See our shrub pruning guide and fear not!
  • 3.   Shrubs are versatile.

  • Wherever the situation in the garden, there will be a wide range of shrubs which are suitable for growing there. Shade or Sun; Wet or Dry; Hot or Cold; Tall or Low; Spreading or Upright. In short – anywhere, any situation! Add to those situations the fact that there are flowering shrubs that will flower at any time in the year; there are shrubs that have scented flowers or aromatic foliage; shrubs for privacy and shrubs for ground cover; shrubs with stunning stem colour or a wide range of foliage colour; evergreen shrubs - or deciduous, to allow a little extra light when needed in the winter. Shrubs can easily be grown in containers. That’s the way they are normally grown in the nursery!
  • 4.   Shrubs are quite easy to propagate.

  •  Most shrubs can be easily propagated into new little plants by taking cuttings, or layers, or sometimes buy seed. Some will need grafting or budding onto different rootstocks, so best avoided by the amateur in the first instance.
  • 5.   Shrubs extend the period of interest in gardens.

  • When all else has died down in the garden, or simply withdrawn into the relative warmth of soil in the winter, shrubs will still be there. With careful choice, the winter flowering shrubs will be in the garden and can take on a new lease of life. Autumn colour of course, needs no introduction! By planting a dogwood or so, you could have 5 winter months full of interesting coloured stems. Also, don't be fooled into thinking that only summer flowers have scent. Many winter shrubs with amazing perfume.
  • 6.   Shrubs add maturity to gardens and to ‘gardeners’!

  • That is not to say that you will age quicker by planting shrubs, but rather, gardening with shrubs will normally make you more aware of what can be achieved in your garden. It will also help you as a gardener to be more aware of the design/landscape possibilities with your plot. Try it and see!

    7.   Shrubs are good homes for beneficial insects and other wildlife.

  •  This will not be everyone’s choice for buying and planting shrubs – more the pity. If we try to garden without wildlife – in all its forms – we will be the losers. You do not have to wear green wellies to appreciate and benefit from wildlife in the garden.
  • 8.   Shrubs normally adapt to climatic changes.

  • Once established, most shrubs will withstand a wide range of climatic changes. For hard winter areas, choose shrubs which are reliable hardy. The first winter season is normally the most difficult for shrubs to endure. Sometimes, damage in the first winter does not start to show through until mid spring or even early summer. Some shrubs are much more hardy than realized – once they become properly established.
  • 9.   Shrubs are protective for other plants and your own living environment.

  •  Larger shrubs in particular, are good for windbreaks, filtering the effects of the wind from other less robust plants, and also for our own personal comfort.  A shrub screen is much more effective at slowing the effects of strong wind, whereas a solid fence, simply diverts the wind downwards causing eddies that can harm many plants.
  • 10.  Shrubs can be rejuvenated quite easily.

  • From time to time, certain shrubs start to look old or even outgrow their allotted area. Many shrubs can be cut back hard to restrict growth, which at the same time gives the shrub a new lease of life. The mailbox is always populated with questions about overgrown shrubs, and what to do. This should allay some the main reasons for not planting shrubs!



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