Want flowers? Think of smaller, compact shrubs

May 31, 2016
elderberry sambucus black lace

The leaves of the elderberry sambucus ‘Black Lace’ are fine cut and resemble a Japanese maple. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

by Connie Oswald Stofko

When you’re shopping for plants for your garden, don’t overlook shrubs. Many shrubs will give you lovely flowers, and there are smaller, more compact varieties of shrubs available that won’t overpower your yard, said Ray Crawley, store manager at Goodman’s Farm Market, 2227 Cayuga Drive Extension, Niagara Falls.

First, let me assure you that there’s still plenty of time to plant things in your garden. There’s no rule that says you have to get all of your plants in the ground by the end of May. Remember that Memorial Day weekend isn’t a deadline for planting; it’s just a starting point. That’s when the danger of frost has usually passed for Western New York, so that’s when it’s generally safe to plant pretty much anything. So keep planting!

The shrubs that we’re talking about today can be planted through autumn. You might be able to plant into October, but getting them in the ground by early September is best so the shrub can establish a good root system before winter, Crawley said.

While you do have time to plant, Crawley noted that getting to Goodman’s early will give you the best selection of these shrubs. Keep shopping throughout the summer; the selection of plants changes throughout the season.

elderberry Lemony Lace

Elderberry ‘Lemony Lace’ gets produces big clusters of white flowers in early spring, then the bright yellow leaves appear. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

Goodman’s carries a variety of shrubs from Proven Winners that flower, and most have a fairly long bloom time, Crawley said. In addition, many have foliage that adds interest to your landscape.

Elderberry ‘Black Lace’ and ‘Lemony Lace’

“People come in and mistake this for a Japanese maple,” Crawley said.

The sambucus ‘Black Lace’ and ‘Lemony Lace’ are elderberry bushes that have very fine cut leaves, similar to a Japanese maple, he explained.

Native to North America, they are tough, low-maintenance and deer resistant.

‘Black Lace’ grows 6 to 8 feet tall, but you can trim it back and use it in a pot on your patio.

As its name implies, it has dark purple-black leaves. The pink flowers in early summer are followed by blackish red fall berries that can be harvested for making elderberry wine and jam or left on the plant to attract birds and other wildlife.

One note: According to information on Proven Winners, parts of the ‘Black Lace’ plant may be toxic to pets.

'Summer Wine' ninebark

The light colored flowers contrast beautifully with the dark foliage of ‘Summer Wine’ ninebark. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

‘Lemony Lace’ is smaller, getting only 3 to 5 feet tall and can be pruned to stay smaller. It produces big clusters of white flowers in early spring before the foliage emerges. When the leaves appear, they’re bright yellow, edged in red. As the foliage ages, it turns an attractive chartreuse.

‘Summer Wine’ ninebark

The foliage of this ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) ‘Summer Wine‘ is a dark purple color, Crawley said. The soft pink flowers that it gets in spring contrasts nicely with the foliage.

This is another native plant. While using native plants in your landscape is good for the environment in many ways, such as helping pollinators, I like using native plants because they’re easy to care for. They’re adapted to our environment and you don’t have to spend a lot of time watering or fussing with them. Proven Winners notes that this variety has superior resistance to powdery mildew, a common problem with ninebark.

In addition to ‘Summer Wine’, Goodman’s also carries ‘Tiny Wine’, which is smaller and grows 3-4 feet tall.

‘Cityline’ hydrangeas

‘Cityline’ hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) will get only 1-3 feet tall.

‘Cityline Paris’ is pink and  ‘Cityline Venice’ is purple. (For those blue or purple flowers, the soil must be more acidic.)

These hydrangeas are selected to be lower maintenance, Crawley noted. It’s a dwarf plant and doesn’t need pruning, but you can prune it immediately after it flowers if you want. It blooms on old wood, so don’t prune it before it flowers or you’ll be cutting off all the potential flowers.

'Cityline Paris' hydrangea

The ‘Cityline’ hydranges are a dwarf variety that get only 1 to 3 feet tall. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

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5 Responses to Want flowers? Think of smaller, compact shrubs

  1. Fran Poitras on May 31, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    I lost a couple of roses over the winter and was wondering if your a preference as to where to buy some new ones?

  2. Connie on June 1, 2016 at 7:55 am

    Fran, I feel comfortable directing you to any of the garden centers I work with. I know that Waterman’s Greenhouse in the Springville area and Goodman’s Farm Market in Niagara Falls have roses because I recently talked to both of them about roses. The other garden centers that I work with may have them as well, but it’s hard for me to keep track of who has what in stock. Whenever you want to know what garden centers have a particular plant in stock, it’s best to contact them directly. To find contact information, you can click on the ads here on the Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com website or go to our Gardening Directory. I hope that helps.

  3. Fran Poitras on June 1, 2016 at 10:17 am

    Thanks for your quick responce!

  4. Donna@GWGT on June 5, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    I use small shrubs in containers. If they get too big, they can go into the garden. They even over-winter pretty well in large pots, but not like in the clay container holding Cityline. That would freeze, crack and kill the hydrangea. Hard to tell if it is clay or plastic though.

  5. Connie on June 6, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Donna, that’s a good point. I didn’t shoot the photo myself, so I don’t know if it’s a clay pot or a great-looking plastic pot. The photo illustrates that you can grow indeed grow these plants in containers. However, we want people to know they can’t keep ceramic pots outside over the winter.

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