Shrubs are the core of most landscape beds, they anchor between trees and provide size and color where a tree would be too big, and a perennial too small. The sweet spot also means they need to pull their weight when it comes to color and characteristics. I like to use unique shrubs that really show off their best aspects at the best times. Most typical blooming shrubs like Spireas and Weigelas have 1 season of color, then it’s a typical plant the rest of the year. This article will discuss a few different shrubs that will show their color in multiple ways and for extended periods of time. Like the previous articles, these shrubs will be native shrubs that will do excellent in our climate yet are overlooked in the nursery.
Along the riverbanks, slopes, and wooded areas of Nebraska you may come across this first shrub. With its tropical-looking leaves and unique form, ‘Tiger Eyes’ Sumac is a great cultivar and my favorite selection of Sumac. This shrub will get on the bigger size, slowly getting to 6’ x 6’, and will have unique structure and branching which requires no pruning or shaping. The two seasons of color of this specimen is Summer and late Fall. The summer flowers are conical and quite large on top of the plant stems, but the best color actually comes from the leaves which are chartreuse most of the year, turning a more golden yellow with orange mixed in as fall approaches. The leaves hang on to purple stems which gives great contrast and makes this plant the centerpiece in many gardens.
Native along wooded riverbanks and lowland areas of Nebraska, Chokeberries are another native shrub with some great seasonal color. This Shrub is denser and more like a typical shrub, but it gets a bit taller than wider, and has great interest no matter what time of year it is. ‘Autumn Magic’ Chokeberry is a great selection for our climate and can bring some great color to shadier spots that may lack some eye-catching potential. Late Spring is when the display begins, white flowers with pink centers cover the branches for a few weeks until summer rolls in. During the summer the leaves age well into a glossy dark green and the berries which were pollinated begin the emerge. In the fall the berries grow to be full size, and then those glossy leaves turn into a spectacular show of color ranging from yellow to deep red. The leaves give way in November exposing the berries which have now turned a dark blue-black. These berries persist into the winter until they are eventually eaten by wildlife and the cycle begins again once spring rolls around.