Trees are majestic and inspire me all year long. Annual flowers light up my hanging baskets and vegetable patch in summer. Shrubs, both useful and ornamental, are the foundation of my garden. Here’s what I plant and why.
Planting Shrubs in a Backyard
Living in San Francisco, only a few lucky souls have backyards large enough to hold more than a grove of large trees. I am not among them, although I boast a few fruit trees in my garden and lots of summer blossoms. However, shrubs are the right size to make my backyard look vibrant all year long.
“Shrub” is a small word that includes a huge variety of plants. You can get deciduous shrubs that lose their leaves in winter or evergreen shrubs that provide color and texture all year round. Many of the best backyard shrubs grow rapidly to fill in empty spaces in your yard. I have planted a number of shrubs over the years and love them all dearly, though I must admit to having favorites.
Useful Bushes for Backyard Gardens
Some shrubs serve a purpose other than making the garden attractive. I call these my useful shrubs and they range from blueberries and raspberries planted for their luscious fruit to plump arborvitae sited near the property line to create a privacy screen.
My favorite useful shrub is firethorn. I don’t include this in my California garden, but it’s well-represented in my yard in France, serving as a defensive hedge. Their sharp thorns are an effective way to keep out the wild ponies that like to eat my young trees over winter. In addition, firethorn grows gorgeous berries, some blood red, others orange, in stunning contrast to their dark red leaves. These provide wild birds with food all winter long.
Ornamental Shrubs for Backyards
Some shrubs are simply beautiful, and to me, that is reason enough to love them. My current favorites in San Francisco include flowering maple. This shrub has leaves shaped like maple foliage and flowers that look like papery crimson Chinese lanterns. It is dramatically beautiful, yet surprisingly easy to care for in an area that gets dappled sun.
California lilac is tied for first place in the ornamental shrub department. This vibrant shrub is native to the state and produces delightfully fragrant indigo blooms from late spring into summer.