Shrubs with Character

In the mid South, fall is shrub planting season and this year I have plenty of beautiful varieties to plant in my garden.  I just received a shipment of 20 different types of shrubs that I’m going to trial at the Garden Home Retreat.

All of these shrubs are part of the Proven Winners® ColorChoice® program.  This is exciting to me because the shrubs included in this program are carefully selected for their superior performance and beauty.  This workhorse attitude combined with super saturated color and unique characteristics make them a great value in the garden.  

Artic Sun Dogwood

Artic Fire Dogwood

Sunny Boulevard
St. John's Wort
Arctic Sun™ Red Twig Dogwood Shrub (Cornus sanguinea ) - An outstanding feature of this shrub is its stems that graduate from bright yellow at the base to brilliant red at the tip.  Artic Sun™ is diminutive in size, topping out at only 3 to 4 feet so it’s great for containers.
Zones 4 – 7, sun to partial shade, blooms in late spring to early summer

Arctic Fire™ Red Twig Dogwood Shrub (Cornus stolonifera) –  This is a compact form of the dogwood shrub.  It grows to 3 to 4 feet tall rather than the typical 8 to 10 feet.  The compact form makes it ideal for mass plantings.  The stems turn an intense red stems in winter.  The bare stems are wonderful in winter arrangements.
Zones 3 – 8, sun to partial shade, blooms in late spring to early summer

Sunny Boulevard™ St. John’s Wort - This is a great shrub for planting as a group.  It has a low growing form with delicate green foliage.  I’m particularly excited about its exceptionally long bloom time.  The abundant yellow flowers appear from mid-summer through early fall.   But even when the flowers fade the beauty continues with fruit that persist through winter.  Cut stems are beautiful in an arrangement, whether covered in flowers or fruit. Once established this shrub promises to be quite drought tolerant. 
Zones 4 – 8, full sun, 2 to 3 feet tall

Proven Winners Berry Heavy Winterberry
Berry Heavy
Proven Winners Berry Nice Winterberry
Berry Nice
Proven Winners Show Off Forsythia
Show Off
Berry Heavy® Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) – This deciduous holly is native to swamps and bogs which makes it great for soggy areas of the garden.  In autumn the dark green foliage shows hints of yellow or purple. The branches are laden with bright red berries that persist through the winter, giving your garden a burst of color.  Keep in mind that it does need a male pollinator to produce berries.  I recommend the variety ‘Jim Dandy’, which is a compact winterberry that produces loads of blooms that the bees love but no berries.  Be aware that the berries are toxic to pets, but relished by birds.
Zones 3 – 8, full sun to partial shade, 6 to 8 feet tall

Berry Nice® Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) – Berry Nice® is another deciduous holly that we are trialing at the Garden Home Retreat.  The red berries appear in early winter.  This variety is mildew resistant; an important characteristic if that’s a problem for you.  Like Berry Heavy® it requires a male pollinator to produce berries.  Again I suggest the cultivar ‘Jim Dandy’.  The berries are toxic to pets, but relished by birds.
Zones 3 –8, full sun to partial shade, 6 to 8 feet tall

Show Off™ Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia) – What would a farmstead be without forsythia?  The bright yellow blooms of this early spring flowering shrub brighten any landscape. Show Off™ keeps a tidy, compact form so there is no need to prune.  In spring it covers itself in flowers literally from the base of the shrub to the tip of each stem.  Imagine how beautiful a hedge of these would be when in full bloom!
Zones 4 – 9, full sun, 5 to 6 feet tall, deciduous

Proven Winners Golden Lanterns Pheasant Berry
Golden Lanterns
Pheasant Berry
Proven Winners Fireball Burning Bush
Fire Ball
Burning Bush
Proven Winners Blue Satin Rose of Sharon
Blue Satin
Rose of Sharon
Golden Lanterns® Pheasant Berry (Leycesteria formosa) – This is one unique and colorful shrub.  The foliage unfurls first as a deep yellow color, brushed with red and then matures to chartreuse.  During mid-summer, pendulous 4-inch long, dark purple flowers appear.  By autumn the flowers are replaced with dark purple, edible berries.  Pheasant Berry thrives in wet conditions near ponds so I’m going to try it out around the duck pond.
Zones 6 – 10, full sun to partial shade, deer resistant, 3 to 5 feet tall

Fire Ball® Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) – When it comes to fall color it’s hard to beat Burning Bush.  The name certainly does a good job of describing the fiery red autumn foliage.  Fire Ball® is exceptional for its tighter branching and superior cold hardiness.  In summer the attractive yellow green foliage makes a good backdrop for other plants.  Burning Bush is typically low maintenance and pest free.  For the best fall color plant this shrub in full sun.
Zones 4 – 9, full sun, 5 feet tall

Blue Satin® Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) – If you love blue flowers as much as I do, be sure to give this shrub a try in your garden.  Rose of Sharon is an old-fashioned summer flowering standard that can be counted on to perform with little care.  Blue Satin® retains this carefree nature along with a profusion of rich blue flowers.  The shrub itself is large with an upright habit.  It can be trained into a small tree as a striking focal point or planted in rows to form a hedge.
Zones 5 – 9, full sun, 8 to 12 feet tall.

Proven Winners Sugar Tip Rose of Sharon
Sugar Tip
Rose of Sharon
Proven Winners Cityline Vienna Hydrangea
Cityline Vienna
Proven Winners Let's Dance Moonlight Hydrangea
Let's Dance Moonlight
Sugar Tip™ Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) – Sugar Tip™ rose of Sharon has beautiful blue-green leaves edged in creamy white.  It is the first variegated rose of Sharon to produce blooms with success.  The charming flowers are fully double and clear pink, making them the perfect accent for the unique foliage.
Zones 5 – 9, full sun, 8 to 12 feet tall
Cityline™ Hydrangeas – I’m really excited about this dwarf hydrangea.  Growing only 12 to 32 inches tall it’s ideal for containers, small spaces or mass plantings.  Although the plant stays compact the bright flowers are large and showy. Look for a range of pink hues from the 4 different varieties:  Cityline™ Berlin, Cityline™ Paris, Cityline™ Venice and Cityline™ Vienna.
Zones 5 – 9, full sun to partial shade, 1 to 3 feet tall
Let's Dance™ Hydrangea – I’ve actually been growing this hydrangea at the Garden Home Retreat for over a year and I couldn’t be more pleased.  I’ve been so pleased in fact that I’ve just ordered more.  The Let’s Dance™ series of hydrangeas produce flowers on both old and new wood so it blooms in early summer and again later in the season.  And if the flower buds forming on the old wood get zapped by an early spring freeze or by an over zealous pruning job,  there will still be flowers produced on new growth (new wood). That makes this a revolutionary and outstanding introduction for hydrangeas. My soil is alkaline so the huge flower heads are bright pink that fade to green as the blossoms mature. Blooms are blue in acidic soil. The foliage is an attractive glossy green that turns to a bronze red in fall.
Zones 5 – 9, full sun to partial shade, 2 to 3 feet tall

Proven Winners Pinky Winky Hydrangea
Pinky Winky
Proven Winners Limelight Hydrangea
Proven Winners Fine Line Buckthorn
Fine Line
Pinky Winky™ Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) – This is another hydrangea that I’ve already tested with outstanding results.  It’s the latest addition to the Hydrangea paniculata family.  You may already be familiar with Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pee Gee’.   Unlike ‘Pee Gee’ the stems on Pinky Winky™ are sturdy so the heavy blooms won’t flop over, which is a major improvement. Pinky Winky™ flowers emerge white and as they mature the older blooms turn pink at the base resulting in a shrub with enormous, bicolor blooms.
Zones 3 – 8, full sun to partial shade, 6 to 8 feet tall, Fall Garden Favorite.   
'Limelight' Hydrangea - 'Limelight' hydrangea is a "stop-the-car" kind of shrub that I grow for its chameleon-like quality of changing colors through the seasons. In spring large bright chartreuse flower heads (6-12 inches) glow in the landscape, then change to cream revealing shades of pink and finally maroon as the light lessens in the fall. I like to dry them for displays or when left on the stem they add winter interest to the garden.
Zones 3 - 8, full sun to partial shade, 6 to 8 feet tall

Fine Line® Buckthorn (Rhamnus asplentiflora) - Fine Line® is the solution for invasive buckthorn species.  Unlike its weedy cousins, Fine Line® produces a sparse number of berries, very few of which are viable.  The berries are also inedible, which means they won’t be transported by birds.  This shrub has a nice columnar form with ferny foliage that turns butter yellow in the fall.  After the leaves drop a beautiful bark is revealed that adds interest to the garden through winter.
Zones 2 – 8, full sun to partial shade, 5 to 7 feet tall, 2 feet wide

Proven Winners Brandywine Viburnum
Proven Winners Bangle Broom Shrub
Broom Shrub
Proven Winners Summer Wine Ninebark
Summer Wine
Brandywine™ Viburnum (Viburnum nudum) – Birds love this shrub, but deer don’t even notice it.  That’s a winning combination in my book.  Another plus is that Brandywine™ definitely makes a bold color statement.   In autumn the green berries ripen to pink and blue.  These brilliantly hued berries are set against a late fall show of dark maroon-red foliage. 
Zones 5 – 9, full sun to partial shade, 5 to 6 feet tall

Bangle™ Dyers-Greenwood (Genista lydia) – This is a unique shrub that I am particularly excited about adding to the garden.  In spring it is covered in electric yellow flowers.  After the flowers fade the nearly leafless stems create a low mound of pattern and texture.  Growing to only 2 feet tall Bangle™ makes an excellent ground cover or container garden plant.
Zones 4 – 9, full sun, 1 to 2 feet tall

Summer Wine® Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolious) – This is going to be my first attempt at growing ninebark.  The papery bark, early summer flowers and berry clusters all sound intriguing.  Plus Summer Wine® has fabulous burgundy colored foliage and a graceful weeping habit.  I can hardly wait to see how it performs in my garden.
Zones 3 – 7, full sun, 5 to 6 feet tall

Proven Winners Coppertina Ninebark
Proven Winners Lo and Behold Bluechip Buddleia
Lo and Behold
Coppertina™ Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolious)  - In addition to the interesting bark, flowers and berries of Summer Wine®,  Coppertina™ has amazing copper foliage that turns a rich red in fall.  I look forward to this shrub being a focal point in the garden all year. 
Zones 3 – 7, full sun, 6 – 8 feet tall, 5 feet wide

Lo & Behold™ 'Blue Chip' Buddleia – There are two innovative characteristics to this butterfly bush:  it only grows to 3 feet and it blooms continuously without deadheading.  The deep blue, fragrant flowers appear from early summer through fall. Like other butterfly bush, Lo & Behold™ ‘Blue Chip’ attracts butterflies, but isn’t appealing to deer.
Zones 5 - 9, full sun, 24 to 30 inches tall


Proven WinnersThe plants featured in this article are from Proven Winners®.  Visit to find a retailer in your area.
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