Chris Pattison - Nurseryman

Brookend, Pendock, Gloucestershire, GL19 3PL - Tel/Fax: 01531 650480 Email: contact@chris-pattison.co.uk

TOP 20 Shrubs (or so!)
We’re always being asked for recommendations, but when put on the spot it’s strange how the brain ceases to function properly, so here’s a list of 20 or so shrubs I would want in my garden, space permitting of course. All have been selected for ease of growing and for providing a particularly long period of interest. Some have an extended flowering season and others provide additional colour at different times of the year, thereby providing multi-seasonal display.

 

Hydrangea paniculata PhantomHydrangea paniculata Phantom

A versatile late flowering deciduous shrub giving a stunning display of flowers from July to November.
Huge flower heads up to 30 cm., each panicle carrying well over a hundred individual flowers, lime green in bud opening to cream, then white before fading to a good rose pink. This pink gradually darkens and once the autumn frosts arrive each flower head takes on an attractive ‘parchment colour that lasts through the winter.


The paniculata group flower on the current seasons wood and are therefore best hard pruned each spring before growth commences. For the best show of the largest flower heads, prune each shoot back to 2cm from where the previous years growth started. Once the new shoots are growing strongly, remove the weakest shoots and thin the rest out to leave 8 or more evenly spaced strong shoots.
If left to grow unchecked, each flower head will be significantly smaller but the plant will develop into a floriferous large shrub eventually attaining a height of 3m. By pruning out some of the lower branches and removing the

weaker shoots from the centre of the plant you will have transformed this 10ft. shrub into an attractive small multi branched tree that would grace any garden.

 

Punica granatum Nanum ‘Dwarf Pomegranate’

Punica granatum Nanum ‘Dwarf Pomegranate’

A superb plant for a hot dry situation.
Copper coloured young growth maturing into glossy bright green leaves.
Rich orange scarlet flowers start to show in July and continue repeatedly until the first frosts in October/November. Good yellow autumn colour is an added bonus.


Although hardy in all but the coldest winters, some protection from a nearby wall is beneficial.  Mine was cut back to ground level in the winter of 2010/2011, but by the end of the following growing season has re grown to a shapely 80cm. Height and width after 10 years 1.5-1.8m. Will re-generate if hard pruned.

 

Grevillea Canberra Gem

Grevillea Canberra Gem

Perfectly hardy evergreen despite being native to Australia.


Fresh green needle like leaves. Crimson spidery like flowers in abundance from early April to July. Easy and quick growing to 1.5-1.8m. Hot sunny position, suitable for any neutral or acid soil. but will tolerate a little lime. Good for dry situations.

 

Abelia grandiflora

Abelia grandiflora

One of the best late flowering shrubs. Semi evergreen to 1.2m.


Masses of scented white tubular flowers with a hint of pink from July to November. Even when the individual flowers drop the dusky pink calyxes remain on the plant which gives the whole plant a bicolour pink and white appearance. The glossy bronze tinted foliage add to the overall show.

 

Arching habit, suitable for a semi shaded position, but gives better show if planted in full sun. A good ‘bee plant’.

 

Abelia schumanii

Abelia schumanii

Similar but earlier flowering from Late May with pink flowers and softer green leaves.

 

Abelia Edward Gaucher

Abelia Edward Gaucher

Darker pink flowers,  bronze tinted young growth.

 

Berberis sieboldii

Berberis sieboldii

So many good Berberis, but this has to be my favourite.


Lemon yellow flowers in spring followed by orange red fruit if left unpruned.
Glossy oval leaves 5-8cm. long. Young growth olive green/pale brown with attractive yellow reticulation, developing into mid green shiny foliage turning brilliant scarlet in autumn.


1.5-1.8m. with berries if left to it’s own devices, but makes a much better plant if hard pruned annually as soon as the flowers have finished when the reliable autumn colouring can rival any other small shrub. Height if pruned annually  60-80cm., otherwise 1.5-1.8m.

 

Berberis thunbergii Orange Rocket

Berberis thunbergii Orange Rocket

Out of all the new Berberis cultivars released over recent years this and the following variety are I think the best.
Upright habit to 1m. if hard pruned annually. Stunning orange red young growth in spring and early summer, developing into red purple foliage turning orange red in the Autumn.


As with most Berberis grown purely for the foliage colour, regular hard pruning is strongly recommended. Prune all one year growths back to 2cm every March/April. Sounds drastic, but you really will reap the benefits within a few weeks.

 

Berberis thunbergii Admiration

Berberis thunbergii Admiration

New dwarf variety, 50cm tall by 60-80cm. wide.


Young leaves orange red suffused with emerald green early in the season changing to dark purple with a faint butnoticeable gold edge. Good red autumn colour.

 

A great dwarf shrub for the front of a sunny border. Can be trimmed in spring or left unpruned. Slow growing.

 

Cornus mas Aurea

Cornus mas Aurea

Cornus mas Aurea
Tough shrub to 2.5m. but can be pruned easily.
Butter yellow foliage all summer with attractive pink/red tints in autumn. Small but abundant yellow flowers on bare stems in the depth of winter, often followed by cherry sized red fruit. This yellow leaf form is less vigorous than it’s green counterpart ensuring many more flowers per foot of stem. Suitable for any soil, yellow foliage in sun, lime green if planted in dappled shade.

 

Cornus stolonifera Kelsae Gold

Cornus stolonifera Kelsae Gold

Another good plant for the front of a bed. 40cm x 60cm.


Nice compact habit, bright golden yellow foliage all summer, red tints in autumn.
Makes a tidy low dome that looks good all summer. For an even more compact and smaller plant, hard prune in spring or early summer.

 

Mahonia Moseri

Mahonia Moseri

Mahonia Moseri
Difficult to propagate, always in short supply.
Small suckering evergreen, showy for 12 months of the year. 60-80cm.
Orange young growth turning to apple green with orange and acid green highlights. Colour darkens in the winter which shows of the yellow spring flowers to their best. Suitable for any well drained soil, sun or semi shade.

 

Nandinia domestica Firepower

Another great evergreen for colour twelve months of the year.


Known as The Sacred Bamboo, it is actually a member of the Berberis/Mahonia family.
This slow growing, compact variety will get to 60cm. Wavy edged leaves with long petioles. Colours  ranging simultaneously from apple green through to yellow, orange and red. Looks good for years without any maintenance yet responds well to pruning.
Suitable for any well drained soil, sun or semi shade.

 

Cornus alternifolia Argentea

Cornus alternifolia Argentea

One of the classic ‘sought after’ shrubs with attractive horizontal tiered branchwork creating a stunning architectural plant.
Cream variegated leaves on almost black stems.


Can get to 4m. tall but in most gardens after 10 yrs. growth expect 2-2.5m. height and width. Every year I hack off sizable branches for propagating and am always amazed just how well this plant re grows, retaining it’s attractive shape no matter how ‘haphazard’ the pruning has been.


This plant needs and deserves to be the focal point wherever planted so give it plenty of space and avoid over crowding with other large shrubs.

 

Fothergilla gardenii Blue Mist

Fothergilla gardenii Blue Mist

The Fothergillas have to be one of the best group of plants for autumn colour, requiring neutral or acid, moisture retentive soil for best results.


Fothergilla gardenii Blue Mist is a much smaller growing plant than the better known F. major, making it more suitable for the smaller garden. The attractive glaucous blue foliage looks good all year and takes on the brilliant reds and golds of autumn in mid October.


The sweet scented flowers are an added bonus.  The cream ‘bottle brush’ like flowers emerge from prominent winter buds on bare stems in April.
Ultimate height 70-90cm.

 

Liquidambar

Liquidambar

‘The Sweet Gums’ are notorious for their rich autumn colours.
Oconee and Gumball are small enough to be classed as shrubs, slow growing, attaining a height of no more than 2m. after 15 years, eventually reaching a maximum of 3m. The other varieties available are all trees but can be easily kept down to 2m. or less by regular pruning.
Once the leaves have dropped, prune all 1 year growths back to encourage side shoots. After a couple of years once the initial conical framework has developed, all 1 year shoots can then be hard pruned back to 2cm. each winter. The accompanying picture is of a 20year old ‘Worplesdon’, usually 6-8m. at this age, kept to 2-3m. by regular pruning.

My particular favourites are Lane Roberts with large maple like leaves reliably changing from dark green through red, yellow and orange before taking on blackish purple tones; and Slender Silhouette, a new variety making a narrow columnar tree with large leaves turning in the autumn to give a stunning display of light reds, pink, yellow and orange.
Liquidambar foliage usually begins to change colour in September and will last several weeks often until Christmas or even later. Surely the richest and longest lasting display of autumn colour on any plant.Ignore the books! Liquidambars are quite happy on lime soils and are particularly good for heavy wet conditions.

 

Philadelphus

 Philadelphus

Another favourite is Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’, a popular plant with a strong sweet scent flowering in May and early June. The slightly arching stems are reliably wreathed with large white flowers with purple blotches at the base of each petal. Sun or semi shade, 1.5-1.8m. I have found Philadelphus to be remarkably tolerant of dry starved soils once established, good plants  therefore for underplanting large trees where the soil is

impoverished.

 

Pittosporum tenuifolium Tom Thumb

Pittosporum tenuifolium Tom Thumb

Such a useful dwarf evergreen providing a contrast to many other plants. Compact rounded  habit up to 80cm.

 

Glossy blackish purple leaves suffused with green in the growing season, darkening to almost black during the Winter. Best in full sun.

 

Rhamnus alaternus Argenteovariegata

Rhamnus alaternus Argenteovariegata

Quick growing evergreen with creamy white variegated privet like leaves. Attractive upright shoots and a favourite with flower arrangers as it benefits from regular pruning.

 

While never really exciting this evergreen always has a bright clean look and is a useful foil for other plants. Small orange/red berries in the autumn, but never in the abundance we would hope for. Trims well, regenerated from hard pruning.

 

Sarcococca confusa

Sarcococca confusa

Another what I call useful plant. Tidy growing evergreen up to 60-80cm. with dark glossy green leaves and strongly scented small white flowers in the depth of winter. One of the most adaptable shrubs growing in sun or shade, wet or dry soils, lime or acid conditions. In ideal plant for infilling between larger deciduous shrubs.

 

Plant alongside your driveway or near a regularly used access route for weeks of perfume in the middle of winter. Can be left to grow unpruned, trimmed and even hard pruned as an old tatty plant when it will regenerate from ground level. This shrub can also be used as a replacment for box to form how hedges up to 60cm tall.

 

Viburnum plic Nanum Semperflorens

Viburnum plic Nanum Semperflorens

The name ‘Semperflorens’ says it all. One of the few hardy shrubs that flowers all summer.
As with most ‘plicatum’ cultivars this plant grows with an attractive tiered habit making it a good structure plant for the garden. The pure white flower heads sit on the flattened branches with a spectacular display in May/June. Before these flowers have gone over another flush appears and this continues repeatedly until the frosts in November. The flowers are often followed by red fruit. The foliage turns an attractive rust tan colour in the autumn and even when the leaves have dropped the plant still gives interest with it’s shapely layered branching habit.  Sun or dappled shade, any reasonable garden soil.  Ultimate size after 10-15years 2m. x 1.5m.

 

Viburnum sargentii Onondago

Viburnum sargentii Onondago

Quick growing upright deciduous shrub to 2.5m.


Dusky purple ‘maple like’ young foliage, green during the summer then changing to crimson and orange tones for the autumn. Heads of purple buds open to cream flowers in May.


Plant in full sun for best colour. Prune out oldest wood immediately after flowering.
Can be hard pruned to rejuvenate an old plant.

 

Viburnum tinus Variegata

Viburnum tinus Variegata

Easy evergreen shrub with yellow cream variegated leaves to 2-2.5m.
Umbels of red buds opening to white flowers from October to March.


Can be left unpruned or trimmed to shape. Can also be used for hedging. Prune immediately after flowering to ensure a good crop of flowers every year.