When selecting shrubs, it is easy to let the season and colors of the flowers dominate your choices. That is no wonder, as these blooms become stars of the landscape.
But they are not the only thing to consider in planning a new shrub bed or a fresh look for your foundation plantings around the house.
And while the foliage of some plants is pretty anonymous, others add real style because their leaves are distinctive. They may be smooth and shiny, ruffled or feathery. All of these traits add to the varied look that makes a landscape more interesting.
Hollies, for example, are a huge group of plants widely used in the landscape. They bring many kinds of attributes. You only have to look at the leaves to see variety of shape and texture. Some may be bright glossy green. Others, such as Perny holly, have wavy edges that are delightful contrasts to other plants, such as Needlepoint or Burford holly, which have smooth, even edges.
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Even subtle characteristics, such as the little spines on the edge of a Foster holly, which is more of a small tree than a shrub, add interest.
Leatherleaf mahonia is a highly textured shrub with layered foliage. The individual leaflets are spread out, giving the plant an airy feel, and there are points at the broad tips. It’s the same with nandina, a very feathery plant that is so airy it feels relaxing just to look at it.
Thorns, too, add interest, but care should be taken in placing thorny shrubs so they they do not pose a hazard to people. Such plants as barberry, pyracantha and many kinds of shrub roses possess thorns.
Conifers are even more textured than some of the broad-leaf evergreens. These needle-leaf shrubs, particularly the junipers, come in an amazing range of shapes, sizes and even colors, including gray, blue and even bronze. All add great texture, some of it quite feathery, to the landscape.
The huge range means you can pick the right size for the spot you have and then consider the texture and colors of the foliage. Some are quite flat, making them useful as ground covers, particularly on slopes where grass-growing and mowing are difficult. Others combine well with broad-leaf evergreens.
In making these choices, it is wise to first consider mature size so it will look right for a very long time. But make texture one of the attributes you seek in shrubs, along with flowers. It is just a matter of training your eye to look for the feathery, the ruffled and the wavy.