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.

Smokebush (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

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

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.

JOIN 75,000 GARDEN LOVERSSign up for weekly gardening inspiration and design tips

Get planting advice, garden design tips and trends, monthly checklists for your area, product specials and more in our weekly newsletter.

* Required Fields
We will never sell or distribute your email to any other parties or organizations.

More about the newsletter

Follow Us Garden Design Magazine Facebook Garden Design Magazine Twitter Garden Design Magazine Pinterest Garden Design Magazine Instagram Garden Design Magazine Youtube

Shop Garden Products

From tools to furniture, these garden products are sure to delight

Discover unique garden products curated by the Garden Design editors, plus items you can use to solve problems in your garden right now, and best sellers from around the web.

Shop Garden Design!