Structure in the garden

Features - Plants

Look for these new flowers and shrubs that will help your customers add shape and form to the landscape.


Double the pleasure
Proven Winners ColorChoice’s new Bloom-A-Thon azaleas are now available from Greenleaf Nurseries. These re-blooming azaleas are initially available in four colors: lavender, red, white and double pink.

Explosion of color
Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’ is being released from Plant Haven through Greenleaf Nurseries. It features vibrant orange foliage and a tight columnar habit.

Good enough to eat
Monrovia’s Bountiful Blue blueberry offers a heavy-set of super-sweet berries and new growth that is pink turning to purplish blue.

Late-spring and summer color
New from Ball Horticultural Co., Buddleia Flutterby Petite Lavender features lavender flowers and gray-green foliage.

Small and showy tree or shrub
Southern Living Plant Collection’s Delta Jazz crape myrtle produces bright, medium-pink flowers that contrast brilliantly with its dark-burgundy leaves.

Flower power
Ball Horticultural Co.’s new H. paniculata ‘Bombshell’ produces more flowers per plant than any previous cultivar.

Good thing – small package
H. paniculata Little Lime from Proven Winners ColorChoice has the same great flowers and color as ‘Limelight,’ but comes in a smaller package.

Enduring ember
Mystical Flame from Novalis is a new H. paniculata that continues to shine when other flowering shrubs have passed their blooming prime.

Rich foliage
Itea virginica Scarlet Beauty from Chicagoland Grows has deeper green foliage than any other sweetspire on the market.

Early-spring color
Southern Living Plant Collection’s Nandina domestica Obsession features brilliant-red new foliage – richer than ordinary nandinas.

Distinct and dazzling
Rhododendron ‘Holden’s Solar Flair,’ available through Briggs Plant Propagators, features distinctive true-yellow flowers with red blotches.

Broad spectrum
Weigela Rainbow Sensation from Novalis is a fascinating new variegated form. Before flowers appear, it lights up the landscape with its foliage.

The author is managing editor of Garden Center magazine. She can be reached at


Small is the new big in flowering shrubs By Ryan McGrath

Small is the big trend for flowering shrubs. You can examine this fact yourself by simply strolling around an average neighborhood developed in the last several years. What you’ll find is a smaller lot, filled with a bigger house and a lot less yard.

In fact, according to U.S. Census data, lot size has dropped from a median of about 10,000 square feet in 1990 to 8,500 square feet today.

What does all this mean? It’s simple. Homeowners have less room to work with in their landscaping and gardens.

Here at Spring Meadow Nursery, we are still selling larger-sized shrubs as strong as ever. Compact shrubs are no doubt a growing trend, given the popularity of our newest introductions

Shrubs now fitting homeowners in both space and lifestyle.

Not only do homeowners not have room for a 10-foot tall shrub, they don’t have time to prune it. For good or ill, taking the time to prune shrubs just does not fit most American’s on-the-go, smartphone-Facebook lifestyles.

Using naturally compact shrubs eliminates the need for regular pruning. This makes even more sense given the average homeowner likely doesn’t have the knowledge of how to prune the correct way.

The National Gardening Association’s annual National Gardening Survey in 2007 revealed only 2 percent of survey respondents would qualify as master gardeners and only 7 percent called themselves “gardening enthusiasts.” The rest (91 percent) were self-described non-gardeners, casual gardeners or “just cut the grass,” reluctant gardeners.

These irregular gardeners don’t have the time, interest or knowledge of how to prune their plants. They want something they can just plant and enjoy, year after year, all year long – without any extra work.

That is why we focus on things like disease resistance, drought tolerance, reblooming flowers, year-round interest and deer resistance.

These new shrubs will fit in any sized garden. They can be planted near a window or deck and not create an overgrown hassle after a few years. Best of all, they allow the homeowner to pack a larger amount of diversity and color into a smaller space.

Based on how we have seen the market respond, giving homeowners flexibility and working in smaller spaces are important selling features of our new compact introductions.

As we’ve capitalized on this trend, we’ve also seen a significant number of landscapers reach success by including more compact shrubs in their offerings.

For landscape professionals, the trend toward compact shrubs means more options in plant selection for new landscaping. Compact shrubs require less time and cost less to maintain. In addition, compact shrubs can be included in mass plantings to reduce lawn size and mowing.

Recommended compact shrubs.

Here are several new compact shrubs recommended for a variety of garden sites:

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) – Butterfly bush usually grows about 6 feet tall by midsummer, a problem for smaller gardens. A new cultivar, ‘Blue Chip’ is a miniaturized butterfly bush, just slightly larger than 2 feet in height. ‘White Ball’ is another compact variety, reaching 2 to 3 feet tall.

Sweetspire (Itea virginica) – ‘Henry’s Garnet’ is a popular cultivar with long white flowers. This native shrub is easy to grow and stands 3 to 4 feet tall. Little Henry is a dwarf version of ‘Henry’s Garnet,’ which is less than 3 feet tall at maturity. Its smaller size makes it ideal to mix into a perennial border.  

Weigela florida – Weigela bushes grow to a height of 6-10 feet tall, with a similar spread. Their arching branches produce pink, white or red flowers in late spring to early summer. Newer cultivars also offer interesting foliage. ‘Minuet’ is a dwarf plant less than 3 feet tall. Two newer cultivars, Midnight Wine and My Monet, stand just 10 to 12 inches tall.

All of these compact shrubs will work in today’s home landscaping, large or small.

The author is a marketing specialist at Spring Meadow Nursery in Grand Haven, Mich.