“What are some shrubs that add interest and color year-round? For example, foliage that changes color in the different seasons.” Question from Alecia of Puyallup, Washington
Answer: There are loads of shrubs that remain attractive through the seasons. Here are four great selections for your region followed up by a video of my favorite shrubs that bloom all summer long. Many of these also look attractive through fall and winter.
Shrubs with Year-Round Interest
Cardinal Candy® Linden Viburnum (Viburnum diltatum Cardinal Candy®) – Cardinal Candy has clusters of white flowers in spring and lustrous foliage and heads of greenish berries in summer that turn scarlet in fall and persist into winter. The fall leaves also turn beautiful burnished shades of dark red.
Kaleidoscope Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora ‘Kaleidoscope’) – Beautifully variegated evergreen foliage and loads of flowers through most of the growing season make this compact shrub a real winner.
Ruby Slippers Dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’) – All oakleaf hydrangeas have all-season interest, but most become very large, which is why I like compact varieties like ‘Ruby Slippers’. It has beautiful oak-like leaves and clusters of white flowers in early summer that persist on the shrub into fall, turning shades of ruby-rose as they age. In fall, the leaves turn burgundy red and the flowers dry to tan. Through winter, the old flowers will remain and the stems have attractive peeling bark.
Yak Rhododendron (Rhododendron yakushimanum) – For your region, yak rhodies are great garden performers. They bloom beautifully in spring with clusters of flowers in varying shades of pink and white, depending on the variety. They form lovely tidy, broad mounds of evergreen foliage with attractive felty new foliage. I just love them. To discover more rhododendron for your area visit the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden website. The garden is also a real treat to visit in spring.
“What are the best perennial plants to use for foundation planting? [I need] something to cover a fairly tall, 5ft swath of concrete foundation. Thank you!” Question from Trish of Newton, New Jersey
Answer: There are lots of wonderful garden perennials ideal for foundation plantings. Those that I recommend the most are long-lived, have a long season of beauty, and perform reliably. When designing a perennial garden for a foundation, It’s always important to plant larger perennials towards the back, graduating to shorter specimens towards the front. Here are some options that mix well together and look great.
Tall Perennial Plants
The perennials listed here are bold, bushy, look good all season, and create good foundation coverage while also creating a nice backdrop for shorter perennials.
Sun KingGolden Japanese Spikenard (Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’, Zones 3-9, partial sun to shade): Though it only reaches 3 feet tall and wide, ‘Sun King’ has beautiful golden leaves all summer that creates a happy backdrop for flowering perennials.
Morning LightChinese Silver Grass (Miscanthussinensis ‘Morning Light’, Zones 5-9, full sun): The feathery good looks of this 4- to 6-foot grass are always appealing, even in winter.
Prairie Winds®Apache Rose Switch Grass (Panicum virgatumPrairie Winds®Apache Rose, Zones 4-9, full sun): Reaching a maximum of 4 feet, Prairie Winds®Apache Rose has soft blades and rosy, grassy panicles in summer.
Floribunda or Shrub Roses (Rosa spp., hardiness varies, full sun): Ever-flowering, bushy shrub roses are an excellent choice for the back of the border, as long as you choose a really tough, disease-resistant variety. I love the double-pink-flowered Queen Elizabeth, which grows to a maximum of 5-6 feet and stays bushy. The breeders describe it as indestructible.
Tall Phlox (Phlox paniculata, Zones 4-8, full to partial sun): Two favorite tall phlox varieties are the heavy-flowering, pure white ‘David’ (4 feet) and the coral-pink-flowered Garden Girls™Glamour Girl (3 feet). Both are mildew resistant when most others are susceptible. The only downside to these tall perennials is that they lack winter interest.
‘Denim ‘n Lace’ Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Denim ‘n Lace’, Zone 4-9, full sun): The brilliant violet-blue spires of this 2- to 3-foot shrubby summer bloomer are very impressive and attract bees and butterflies. It also retains a pleasing branch structure in winter.
Hellebores (Helleborus hybrids, hardiness varies, full sun to shade): Hardy hellebores bloom very early in the season, and then maintain attractive evergreen foliage the rest of the year. They mix well with many other perennials along foundation borders. (Click here to read more about hellebores.)
Line the edges of your beds with perennial sedums, low-growing flowers and ornamental grasses, or anything colorful or evergreen. Lots of creeping garden plants look great along a garden edge. (Click here to read more about garden creepers.)
I hope that you use some of these plants to design a spectacular foundation perennial border this year.