Shrubs for UK Gardens

Mixed shrub border

Shrubs can add form, shape, structure, interest and colour to the garden, and provide a backdrop for other forms of planting. The following selection of shrubs are suitable for growing in domestic gardens in Great Britain (England/Scotland/Ireland).

Deciduous Shrubs

Azalea in bloom

Azalea
 

buddleia

Buddleia
Butterfly Bush

Chimonanthus flowers

Chimonanthus
Wintersweet

Chaenomeles pink flowers

Chaenomeles
Flowering quince

Cornus alba Sibirica

Cornus
Dogwood

Corylus Hazel

Corylus
Hazel

Cotinus

Cotinus
Smoke Bush

Cotoneaster

Cotoneaster
 

Broom

Cytisus - Genista
Brooms

Daphne pink flowers

Daphne
 

Forsythia

Forsythia
Golden Bells

witch hazel yellow tasles

Hamamelis
Witch hazel

hibiscus flowers

Hibiscus
Tree Hollyhock

hydrangea white flowers

Hydrangea
Hortensia

Kerria japonica

Kerria japonica
Japanese rose

kolkwitzia flowers

Kolkwitzia
Beauty bush

Winter Honeysuckle

Lonicera
Winter Honeysuckle

philadelphus white flowers

Philadelphus
Mock Orange

Ribes (flowering currant)

Ribes
Ornamental Currant

Rubus

Rubus
Ornamental Bramble

Sambucus

Sambucus
Elder

Spiraea prunifolia

Spiraea
 

Symphoricarpos Berries

Symphoricarpos
Snowberry

Syringa

Syringa
Lilac

Tamarix pink flowers

Tamarix
 

Viburnum pink flowers

Viburnum
 


Evergreen Shrubs

Abelia

Abelia
 

variegated Aucuba Japonica

Aucuba Japonica
Spotted Laurel

Azara

Azara
 

Berberis

Berberis
Barberry

buxus leaves

Buxus
Box

Camellia

Camellia
 

Ceanothus repens

Ceanothus
Californian lilac

Choisya white flowers

Choisya
Mexican Orange Blossom

Cistus pink flowers

Cistus
Rock Rose

Elaeagnus, variegated form

Elaeagnus
 

Euonymus

Euonymus
Spindle

erica heather

Erica
Heather

escallonia pink flowers

Escallonia
 

Fatsia japonica flower

Fatsia japonica
False Caster Oil Plant

Garrya elliptica

Garrya elliptica
Silk tassel bush

hebe purple flower

Hebe
Veronica

mahonia japonica

Mahonia
 

Osmanthus white flowers

Osmanthus
Sweet olive

bay tree leaves

Laurus nobilis
Bay

Nandina domestica

Nandina domestica
Heavenly Bamboo

Photinia

Photinia
Christmas berry

Pieris

Pieris
 

Pyracantha

Pyracantha
Firethorn

Rhododendron

Rhododendron
 

Sarcococca flowers

Sarcococca
Sweet Box

skimmia with red berries

Skimmia japonica
Skimmia

Gorse yellow flowers

Ulex
Gorse


Choosing Shrubs for the Garden

There are literally hundreds of different species and varieties of shrubs and woody plants available. Choosing plants that are suitable for specific sites and locations around the garden can be a daunting task.

Well planted and cared for shrubs should live for many years, providing a lifetime of joy and reward. However, poorly chosen or badly sited shrubs may eventually grow to become an nuisance and an eyesore. One that eventually may need to be removed, often with much effort and expense. Therefore it is best to take plenty of time to research and choose your shrubs wisely. Attributes to consider include the shrub's eventual size, form, shape and flower/foliage colour at different times of the year.

Size and Shape

Shrubs are available in a diverse range of shapes and sizes, from under 1ft (30cm) up to 20ft (7m) tall. Dwarf types are particularly well suited for the rock or heath garden. Medium sized shrubs are ideal for mixed borders, shrubberies or as specimen plants. There are also those that will eventually make very large dense bushes or grow to tree like proportions. Although most shrubs respond well to pruning, it is best to choose suitable sized specimens and plant them within enough space to reduce the amount of pruning required to a minimum.

The flowering period should also be considered. Certain shrubs bloom before the onset of spring, many flower in spring a summer and yet others flower late in the season, often into winter. Often flowers are followed by colourful ornamental fruits and berries. To extend the range of interest in the garden it is useful to include a range of species that flower and fruit at different times of the year, thus creating a succession of colour through the seasons.

Where and When to Plant Shrubs

Unless planting a hedge, barrier or formal geometrical garden, shrubs don't often look their best when be planted in straight rows. They will appear more natural when set out in small irregular groups of 3-5 or more, depending on size. Shrubs that are exceptionally attractive, due to their growth habit, leaf colour, flowers or fruits can be planted as solitary specimens, in the middle of an open space or given pride of place in the border.

In general, the best time to plant deciduous shrubs is in the autumn once the stems are bare of leaves. Evergreen shrubs are best planted in spring before they begin to put on growth.

Growing Requirements

If shrubs are to grow and blossom well it is necessary to consider their soil requirements, aspect and possition. Sun-loving species should be given plenty of light and shade-loving forms an appropriate amount of shade. If not, the leaves and flowers may both suffer. Moisture loving shrubs will need a damp well watered location and those that prefer drier conditions, a well-drained site and open free draining soil. You will also need to consider the pH requirements of the soil and the force and direction of prevailing winds.