With the wide assortment of options out there for your garden, choosing what to buy can be confusing. We will focus on flowering shrubs here, giving you some info to decide if this is the best choice for you.
Let’s start out with the advantages of shrubs –
Add structure to a garden
You may want to create some boundaries to your yard, but don’t want the hassle of a fence. Bushes are a great option for this. They take less time to grow than trees, but still give a focal point to work around.
Hide an eyesore
If there is something in your view that you would rather not see, such as a neighbor’s building/yard, a bare section of your yard, or traffic, a fast growing shrub can quickly replace that view with a much nicer one. While most flowering shrubs drop their leaves in the fall so expose the eyesore, sometimes you only need that blocked during nice weather. If the shrub is thick enough, the leaves aren’t necessary. On others, the branches add a pleasing view even in the middle of winter. There are a few flowering evergreens that can block this year around.
Food source for bees and butterflies – very important with the current bee crisis! Yes, butterflies are nice to look at, but bees are dying out in record numbers, and are necessary to pollinate your plants. Having some flowering shrubs can attract them to a new vegetable garden, as the bees learn there is a steady food source nearby.
A quick source of shade
If there is a certain spot you need shade in, but don’t want to wait for a tree to grow, or spend huge amounts of money to get a large tree, a fast growing shrub is a good fix. Sometimes changing conditions or tree damage leaves a previously shaded area vulnerable to sun damage. If your habits have changed and you find you need some wind/sun protection in a new seating spot, a shrub can be an attractive option. Flowering shrubs add extra color to that shade.
Shrubs can reduce the amount of area you need to mow, saving you time and gas. Add enough, and you can even reduce the size of mower you need. They also take up less water than most annuals, saving you water. Some are so self sufficient that you don’t need to water them at all, if you get a decent amount of rain.
There are a range of flowering shrubs that also produce berries, nuts, and fruits, even spices. Most are very easy to grow. Some are well known, such as blueberries, but the new hybrid hazelnuts and bush cherries provide more options. If you aren’t interesting in eating them yourself, there are some that attract birds to your garden, both for fruits or nectar.
An option for any need
With a huge range in size, color, speed of growth, shapes, etc., there are flowering shrubs to fit almost any need or desire. Some provide 4 season interest, with something colorful all year around. Others can stay 8 inches high for years, or get 6 ft in one year. Some can be ignored to look good, while others require consistent shaping and pruning, in case you like to keep busy outside. Whether you like to have a variety of color each, or a constant backdrop for other garden focal points, there is often a variety within a general type to provide what you need.
Disadvantages – A shrub will not work for some situations. If you need a significant amount of shade for a house, trees are a better choice. Buying the wrong type of shrub for your conditions could cause it either to die or grow out of hand. You will not be able to make rapid changes to your garden, so if you like something different each year, annuals are better for you. Also, shrubs tend to bloom once a year, although the bloom time may be a month or two. The rest of the year, they may not be colorful.
Some flowering shrubs produce berries that people find annoying when they drop into the yard, or may attract more wildlife than they expected. This can be adjusted by using a different variety that is less attractive to the unwanted animal or bird. As it can take years to get a new variety up and going, using animal/bird deterrents is often more practical unless you plan on keeping the garden exactly how it is for 5-10 years.
You also want to consider if a certain shrub will grow in your zone. The USDA has a map of all the zones in the US, if you need to check that. Some people may have their heart set on a certain shrub, such as a lilac, only to find that it won’t bloom in their area, because they don’t meet the minimum number of cool days needed.
A few of the more favorite landscaping shrubs are listed in the posts in more detail.