One of my biggest and best downsizing strategies was to replace sweeps of mixed perennial gardens with flowering shrubs and conifers. Dig, dig, swap, swap… Oh what a relief it is! You really don’t appreciate how much more work perennials are, compared to shrubs, until you make the switch. Don’t misunderstand, I still love perennials and will always have these in my garden, just a lot less of them. Most “woodies” simply don’t require the same amount of water, fertilizer and routine care. And I can get every bit, if not more, color from shrubs and trees, especially given the explosion of new cultivars with dazzling foliage, berries, bark and/or form.

Shrubs take on a major role in the right-size garden. To get the most bang for the buck, incorporate varieties with dazzling flowers plus striking foliage and/or stems. Now you’ll have at least three seasons of interest from the same square footage, instead of just the one-trick pony provided by flowers alone. Foliage is all too often the unrecognized star. Leaves co-star with the shrub’s flowers, plus play a colorful supporting role in the garden’s overall beauty.

Below are a few of my favorite flowering shrubs.

Photo by: St. Lynn's Press.

Ninebark (Physocarpus)

Many foliage colors with early summer flowers. I especially love ‘Coppertina’ (bronzey-red), ‘Amber Jubilee’ (orangey-yellow-gold), ‘Dart’s Gold’ (golden-yellow) and ‘Summer Wine’ (burgundy-brown). Zones 3-7

Learn more about ninebark shrubs

Photo by: St. Lynn's Press.

Daphne burkwoodii

'Carol Mackie’ (green leaves with creamy-white margins) and ‘Briggs Moonlight’ (Creamy yellow leaves with dark green margins). Zones 5-8

Photo by: St. Lynn's Press.

Smoke Bush (Cotinus)

‘Royal Purple’ (red-purple leaves), ‘Velvet Cloak’ (deep purple leaves), ‘Golden Spirit’ (golden-yellow leaves), ‘Grace’ (plum-red leaves). These large shrubs can easily be coppiced (pruned hard) to be much smaller, although the flowers are sacrificed. Zones 4-8

Read more about growing smoke bush.

Photo by: St. Lynn's Press.

Bottlebrush (Fothergilla)

‘Blue Mist’ (frosty blue leaves, 2’ - 3’ tall) and ‘Blue Shadow’ (frosty blue leaves, 4’ - 6’ tall). Zones 5-9

Read more about growing Fothergilla.

Photo by: St. Lynn's Press.

Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris divaricata)

‘Snow Fairy’ (soft, minty green leaves with white margins). Zones 5-9

Photo by: St. Lynn's Press.

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