Use these shrubs for splashes of color in the Northeast

by C.L. Fornari

In some parts of the country, there are shrubs that have flowers all summer, but in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions, most have limited bloom times. These are very low-maintenance plants, however, and they're particularly useful for softening patios or decks, filling beautiful beds or screening the yard.

Fortunately, we have an ever-expanding palette of easy-to-grow shrubs that either flower a long time or are colorful with or without their blooms.

Whether you live in Boston or farther south in Washington, D.C., the key to success is to consider the leaves first. If you use shrubs with small and large leaves, place them next to needled shrubs and add plants with yellow and purple foliage, your garden will be a knockout.

Try combining some of the following plants in the ground or in pots on your deck or patio.

Spireas are bone-hardy plants, but we're no longer limited to the very large bridal wreath variety that our grandmothers grew. There are many smaller varieties that are better suited for today's average properties, and they also have colorful foliage.

"Double Play Gold" and "Magic Carpet" are two compact varieties of spiraea valued for bright golden foliage and long periods of bloom. These spireas grow to about 2 feet tall and wide, have golden leaves and have pink flowers. The new growth on "Magic Carpet" is coral red.

Both of these shrubs will do well in containers, and they attract butterflies as well.

Since yellow leaves always look great next to a plant that is purple, you can't go wrong by placing your golden spirea next to a "Summer Wine" ninebark (Physocarpus) or a "Wine & Roses" weigela. These shrubs bloom in June and have dark purple leaves throughout the summer.

In the garden, "Summer Wine" will grow 5- to 6-feet tall and 4- to 5-feet wide. "Wine & Roses" will be just a bit smaller, and both look good when planted singly or in groups of three or more.

Purple foliage is always attractive next to something blue, and two shrubs that add this color and year-round interest to the garden are the "Montgomery" blue spruce (Picea pungens) and the "Blue Jay" Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus). Both of these evergreen conifers grow to between 3- and 5-feet tall with a similar spread.

Hydrangeas have large leaves and long-lasting flowers to complement the shrubs above, and several new varieties are of interest.

The pink, blue or purple flowering Cityline series are named after famous cities around the world, and stay under 3 feet tall. "Invincibelle Spirit" is a pink-flowering hydrangea arborescens, similar to "Annabelle." "Invincibelle Spirit" grows to 5 feet and blooms on new growth. All of these hydrangeas do well in part sun and bloom throughout the summer.

If you're looking out into your garden and only see tiny green leaves, you're missing out! A beautiful, low-maintenance garden is merely a matter of planting shrubs with  a variety of foliage textures and colors.

C.L. Fornari is a writer, gardening expert, professional speaker and radio host who is dedicated to getting you into the garden. The Osterville, Mass., resident is a member of the Perennial Plant Association, American Plant Propagators Society, National Speakers Association and Garden Writers of America.


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