Landscaping Shrubs

Using Hedges & Shrubs in Landscape Design

How to tell which landscaping shrubs will best enhance your home. Techniques for grouping shrubs in the landscape. Tips for pruning shrubs. The best plants to choose for landscaping hedges.


Box hedges and topiary shrubs in a front yard landscape design

Box is always a good choice for formal landscape designs. Buxus is used, the world over, where closely clipped hedges or shaped shrubs are needed.

Its small leaves, dense growth and adaptability make boxwood the quintessential landscaping hedge or topiary planting material.

All of the hedges and the spiral topiary in the image above are made of box.

For planting around large, traditional buildings, box is the safest and most elegant of landscaping shrubs.


Repetition and Symmetry

Christmas tree topiaries in a front yard landscape design

Landscaping shrubs you can use to duplicate this look:

Ilex 'Castle Spire' is hardy in zones 5-9 and prefers shade.

Thuja occidentalis 'Degroot's Spire' grows slowly to 12 feet and features emerald green, twisted foliage.

Emerald Arborvitae is a fast growing shrub to 15 feet. Its foliage is bright green in young plants and dark green in mature specimens. It prefers a full sun location.

The Dwarf Alberta Spruce grows slowly to a maneagable height of 8 feet and needs little maintenance.

Aesthetically, repetition and symmetry are desirable. They give a landscape a feeling of continuity and a calming sense of order.

Culturally, symmetry is risky.

Why? Because you are dealing with live plants and, every gardener knows, plants have a mind of their own.

How will it affect your landscape design if one dies? Or refuses to grow at the same rate of speed as its mates?

The solution to this dilemma is not to avoid the use of symmetrical plantings but to limit it.

That is what has been done here. The triangle trees are the most important elements in this design, but there are just 3 of them.

Their size and number are in balance with the size of the dwelling.

The other use of symmetry is in the low, curved box hedges on either side of the window. The pleasing curved shape is repeated, but a different planting material used, in the circle around the tree.

The shrubs here appear to be hollies, but any pyramidal tree would serve the same purpose.

It is important to use the same varieties of landscaping shrubs in this sort of design. This way, not only is the shape repeated but also the texture and color.

Juniper and Ligustrum landscaping shrubs in a Daytona Beach landscape

Symmetry has been used much more liberally in this front yard landscape design:

  • the junipers standing sentry either side of the front entrance.
  • the row of junipers in the side yard
  • the pair of Ligustrums either side of the fountain
  • and the low hedges beside the walk. This is very daring. Think of what the loss of any one of these plants would mean to this design. Either a perfect match would have to be found to replace it, or both it and its mirror image would have to be removed.
  • For best results with this type of planting, the growing conditions in both sites must be identical. Placing one shrub in full sun and its twin in part shade is a recipe for disaster.

    Tall, columnar junipers and Italianate architecture look well together. The height of the junipers is in scale with this Daytona Beach home while their narrow profile fits the allotted space.

    Landscaping shrubs you can use to duplicate this look:

    • The 2 foot wide Juniperus scopulorum 'Skyrocket' grows quickly to a height of 15 feet.
    • 'Blue Arrow' will achieve a height and spread of 20x4 feet.

    Both are adaptable evergreens that require little pruning to maintain their naturally slender shape.

    The palm in the background is Florida's state tree, Sabal palmetto.


    Grouping Shrubs in the Landscape

    Podocarpus and variegated Pittosporum landscape shrubs.

    When landscaping shrubs are grouped together in a space, the color and texture of each plant's foliage is highlighted.

    While flowering shrubs may be used, they are not really necessary.

    There is enough variety of leaf color and form amongst foliage plants to make up an endless number of exciting compositions.

    Take this grouping, for instance.

    Two small flowering shrubs add touches of color, but that is not what makes this arrangement work so well.

    The unexpected combination of textures and colors contributed by the foliage of the evergreen shrubs is what gives this landscape design its flair.

    Three southern yews climb the gray walls of this historic Savannah, GA home. The southern yew is perfect for this use. It is a landscape shrub that can be grown flat against a wall or fence and will fit into the narrowest of spaces.

    When Podocarpus is used in small yard landscape designs, it is usually sheared. Here, it is being grown in a more natural-looking way while its size and shape are clearly being controlled by some unobtrusive pruning.

    The bright, foliage of the variegated Pittosporum contrasts well against the dark needles of the yew.

    Landscaping shrubs grouped in a Savannah, Ga landscape

    Symmetry has been used in this landscape to pleasing effect. Dwarf varieties of box have been used to create the "living rocks" on either side of the home's entrance. Taller landscaping shrubs have been placed beside each window.

    They have been carefully chosen as to their size and shape. They are larger than the box shrubs in front of them but not so large as to block the windows.

    The mirror imaging in these plantings repeats the symmetrical design of the home's architecture. That is what makes this style of landscaping so agreeable here.

    The designer also knew not to carry the mirroring too far. Although the groups of landscaping shrubs are balanced and extremely similar, they are not identical.


    3 Landscape Shrubs
    1 Beautiful Landscape

    'Burgundy' Loropetalum used as a landscaping shrub

    These three photos are of one front yard landscape design. I'm presenting it in pieces to give you a closer view of the plants in each area.

    This landscape is much more impressive in person than it appears to be on this page. My pictures do not do it justice.

    'Burgandy' Loropetalum has been used for the hedge against the stone wall. In front of this is a row of variegated flax lilies, a grass-like perennial grown for its foliage rather than its somewhat inconspicuous blooms.

    At the corner of the home, the feathery fronds of a multi-stemmed dwarf date palm add more color and texture at a height.

    It is this daring mix of colors and textures that make this front yard landscape design so surprising and unique.

    Podocarpus privacy hedge

    This is another section of the same front yard.

    Here, a tall privacy hedge of dark green southern yew screens an outdoor living space.

    Flax lily has been used again to brighten the scene and to give the design continuity.

    Those gray sticks between the lily clumps are crape myrtle trees. In early summer, these will leaf out and bloom adding another color note to the botanical symphony.

    The weeping bottlebrush does for this end of the property what the dwarf date does for the other, provides more color and texture up high.

    Crotons used as landscaping shrubs

    Crotons are multi-colored landscaping shrubs for subtropical and tropical zones.

    They come in a multitude of color combinations and leaf forms.

    They grow slowly to a height of 6 feet but can easily be kept smaller with yearly pruning.

    The bottlebrush tree is underplanted with a low, naturalistic hedge of colorful crotons.

    Bottlebrush trees make wonderful landscape trees/shrubs. There are weeping and upright types. You could plant a tall variety and let the foliage cascade romanticaly to the ground or plant the dwarf 'Little John' and grow it as a flowering shrub.

    The colors in the croton leaves perfectly compliment both the stone wall of the house and the red flowers on the tree.


    Using Palms as Landscaping Shrubs

    Silver saw palmetto used as a landscaping shrub at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida.

    Palms are not often considered when choosing shrubs for landscaping, but they make unusual and attractive hedges for gardens in warm climates.

    Serenoa repens is shrubby and tough. This U.S. native tolerates heat, drought and considerable cold. Salt spray does not phase it.

    It is popular in coastal Florida where I often see it growing right on the dunes.

    It is sometimes pruned to expose its attractive, brown trunks.

    A landscaping hedge made of lady palm at Bok Tower Gardens

    Lady palm hedge beside a pond at Bok Tower Gardens.

    The dense growth habit of Rhapis excelsa allows its use as a hedge or shrub in the landscape.

    This slow-growing palm performs best in shade.

    There is also a less common variegated variety of this Japanese palm.



    More Advice for Landscaping with Shrubs

    Landscaping Shrubs That Make Great Hedges

    All You'll Ever Need to Know About Pruning Shrubs

    Weigela florida: an Easy-Care Flowering Shrub

    Light Up the Night with White Flowering Bushes

    Plant Butterflly Bushes to Add Color and Repel Deer

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