As I get older I am trying to make my garden a lower-maintenance project. For me, that means using my own "proven winners": plants that perform well, don't need much attention or extra water and don't have pest problems. My top performers: Epimediums, true Geraniums, Hellebores, ferns, Carex and Hakonechloa grasses
The last few years I have been creating sweeps of those plants in the garden AND adding more shrubs. This year's shrub choices extend the variety. The nursery where I ordered the plants is listed first and descriptions are taken from their catalogs as well. My comments follow the descriptions.
Pieris japonica 'Cavatine'
A very dwarf evergreen shrub for the shade border, with coppery fall/winter color and apricot buds that open in early spring with drupes of white lily of the valley flowers. Slowly grows to 2-3' tall and wide. Best in an evenly moist soil that has good drainage in partial shade. Zone 5.
Though Avant Gardens lists this as evergreen I doubt that will hold true in my zone. But this has the big advantage of being shade tolerant and that's what I have more of than sun. I've been lusting after a couple of other Pieris plants from Rare Find Nursery but am still on the fence about buying them.
Rubus spectabilis 'Golden Ruby'
A plant to brighten the woodland with brilliant chartreuse foliage and rosy pink single rose-like flowers in spring. Not as floriferous as the species. Plants grow 4' tall and do spread. Attractive to hummingbirds.
I was on the verge of ordering a white-flowered, thornless variety of this plant when I found this one. I decided that this foliage would look better in the shade than the typical green leaved-forms and that the reddish flowers would work better with the other reds and purples already growing in the area where I will put this. Full sun to full shade. Zone 5.
Salix purpurea 'Nana"
A hardy compact shrub with narrow deciduous dark blue green foliage, and stems that take on more pronounced purplish red tones in winter. Dwarf Arctic Willow responds well to pruning and stooling and is probably most attractive when kept at a 2-3 tall plant, but can grow to 5' if left alone. Attractive to butterflies. Zone 4.
Willows grow well here and I plan to keep this small, preferably 2 rather than 3 feet. I'm thinking of putting it near our Purple Weeping Beech. The willow foliage and stems would look beautiful next to the tree's leaves which emerge coppery, turn purple and then dark purply green.
Corns sanguinea 'Compressa'
Tough little mutant redstem dogwood. Intensely columnar and slow with curled leaves held close to the vertical stems. These turn a most satisfying purple in the fall. As far as flowers go, forget about it. Slow growing, our 6 footer in the garden is pushing 40 years of age. Zone 4.
I've seen this growing in a couple of gardens but this is the first time I've found a source. Can take half sun which is always a selling point with my garden. Alas I will be dead before this reaches 6 feet tall.
Thuja occidentalis 'Pancake'
Arborvitae. Deep sage green summer foliage transforms to blue foliage through the winter months. Long fingers of foliage on a low flat profile. No pruning needed to maintain the shape. Native to North America. Zone 3.
This is the first time I've ordered from Bluestone Perennials in years so we'll see how it turns out. I will put this charmer by the dwarf willow for a little compare/contrast moment.
Ilex verticillata 'Berry Poppins'
Winterberry Holly. Berries appear on females after flowering and mature to bright red, remaining until mid-winter or later. Dwarf variety. Needs 'Mr. Poppins' for pollination. Grows 3-4 feet tall and needs sun. Road salt tolerant.
After seeing a stunning display of dwarf winterberry shrubs on the UW-Madison campus this winter, I fell for this one. Our garden no longer has many berried plants, having lost them over the years to storm damage. I want to plant this in the driveway towards the road where I will be able to see it from the kitchen window, so salt tolerance is a plus. Of course, I bought 'Mr. Poppins' as well.