Shrubs are significant and versatile components of any well-planned garden design. However, with varieties ranging from wild flowering beauties to stately-pruned evergreens, how do you know exactly where to plant them in your garden to make the most impact? There are some key aspects to consider when styling your garden with shrubs, and not planning ahead can lead to some very costly mistakes. Here is our 2023 styling guide for your Iowa garden shrubbery!
How Do I Arrange Shrubs in My Garden?
With so many gorgeous flowering, non-flowering, and evergreen shrubs to choose from, you might just be tempted to try them all! However, Proper shrub styling needs some forethought to avoid common mistakes in the garden. To help you navigate this tricky area of garden design, here are a few of our top shrub styling tips:
Location, Location, Location!
There's an old saying in the gardening world that definitely holds up when it comes to shrubs: "Right plant, right place." Being perennials, shrubs often need specific conditions to survive, and considering how much they cost, it's worth doing your research to make sure you have the proper soil structure, light exposure, and moisture levels. Don't plant full-sun shrubs in shady locations, for instance, and avoid planting taller growing shrubs in the front of a border that can hinder smaller plants as they reach maturity.
You'll also want to get to know the growth pattern of your shrubs—like average height and width—before you plant and find clever ways to allow larger shrubs like hydrangeas to conceal less-than-desirable landscape features. Shrubs with bushy growth patterns are great for concealing unsightly electrical boxes, old sheds, a neighbor's yard, or even the view of a nearby road. Large shrubs can even provide shade on hot summer days, so placing them closer to windows can help keep your house cool while it's outside basking in the sunshine!
Consider Your Garden's Color Theory
If you're starting from scratch and doing some serious styling or just adding a few new filler varieties, look at your garden's overall color theory before putting anything in the ground. While it's great to mix and match colors, especially if you have a cottage garden, sometimes it's better to contain your selections within a specified color palette or temperature. For instance, if you're planting other perennials alongside your shrubs, you may want to choose varieties with similar tones, like pale roses and soft dahlias or deep cosmos and azaleas. Work some evergreen shrubs or hedges into your styling, too, as these work great for grounding all that color and giving your garden year-round appeal.
Plant your shrubs according to the size they will reach in maturity, not how big they are when you bring them home. Most flowering shrubs grow larger each year once established and will require regular pruning, but knowing who needs the most soil space will prevent you from losing other shrubs and drowning out your perennials. As a general rule, keep larger plants to the back of your garden's borders, or place them in areas where they'll be the center of attention without blocking out the rest of your garden.
Play With Textures
Keep in mind that hedges and flowering shrubs have many types of foliage that offer a diverse range of textures to play with. Large flowering shrubs like hydrangeas, lilacs, and roses will greatly impact your garden when they're in full bloom during the summer but won't offer much during the winter months after they have died back. Hedges, on the other hand, make great foundational pieces within any Iowa landscape by providing your garden with visual interest when your flowering shrubs have finished their season.
Therefore, make sure you choose shrubs and hedges with different types of foliage when styling your garden, and mix them into your perennials and annuals to keep your space interesting and exciting all year long.
Incorporate Native Species
You should always try to include native shrub species into your garden design, as it's crucial for protecting your local ecosystem. Native plants are also less of a burden on your resources, having adapted to your region's weather, native soil, and pollinators.
The Best Perennial Shrubs for Iowa Landscapes
Here are some of our favorite shrub varieties to include in your Iowa garden's design for dramatic flowering and evergreen beauty:
- Butterfly bush
Now that you're ready to style your Iowa garden with shrubs, we hope you'll check out our garden center for the perfect picks! Remember that our styling tips are just the start of your relationship with shrubs, and the best way to pin down your perfect design is through trial and error.
Use a journal to draw out your landscape design when styling with shrubs, and place plants while still potted to see how they will interact with the rest of your outdoor space, including buildings, perennial flowers, grasses, structural features like retaining walls, and other decorative features. If you ever get stuck, our friendly team of garden design experts is always right here and ready to help!