Here is my vision...

kaylabdavisFebruary 18, 2011

My husband and I have recently purchased our first home. There is a shrub bed outside and I'm most certainly digging them up and starting from scratch. I've done my research on how to prepare my bed, but my question is, in someone's professional opinion, would the plants that I have picked out compliment each other?

Here is what I love:

boxwood green velvet

variegated liriope

dwarf red barberry

gold mound spirea

spiral junipers (a couple for height and accent)

And then I was wanting to throw in some seasonal pansies for a splash of color.

I hate to spend the money on these plants if they don't compliment each other and I'm definitely a newbie when it comes to gardening so I was hoping someone could give me some insight as to what they think about putting all (or most) of these plants together in a bed. The bed is approximately 10 ft in length and 5 ft in depth. I definitely want short shrubs so that I can see over them when I sit on my front porch (this bed follows the line of the front porch). There is a walkway that divides the large planting area (described above) and a much smaller area where a small dead shrub currently resides. Any and all comments are greatly appreciated!!

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The simple answer to your question is to visit a large nursery which stocks your plant choices, pull them out, place them together and see if the combined colors meet your vision. And, there is always the chance that your nursery visit will introduce you to other shrubs you may find more appealing. You might want to swap out the spring growing pansies during the hot summer and fall months with fibrous begonias.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 11:57AM
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nandina's advice is spot on.....and the important question is, does it look good to YOU?

One comment I would make is that the boxwood, barberry and spiraea all have a very similar mounding shape and small leaf size and texture -- they look very much the same other than foliage color. I might want to consider adding something that would offer more of a contrast in both form (shape) and leaf size.

I also lean very heavily to mostly evergreen plant choices for a front or entry planting area so that it looks similar and attractive for as long a period as possible. I'm just not fond of bare sticks or empty soil in winter in the first planting area you or visitors are likely to encounter. But that's just me :-)

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 10:21AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

If you love those plants, they will look good, and even objectively it sounds like a good basic selection. How you arrange them and what you add to round them out, as well as how you mulch and edge your bed, will make a great deal of difference.

Landscaping doesn't offer many simple yes/no answers, and it also offers few guarantees. If you knew how much money I've "wasted" on plants due to unforeseen outcomes you would probably just pave the whole thing over :-) The thing is, your plants may look good together but they may also succumb to drought, cold, insects, or simply not grow at an even pace, so it's a bit like buying an expensive dog: you understand it is a living thing that comes with inherent risk.

Your plan to keep to short shrubs is probably good as you've thought through the effect you want, but there may be other elements in your environment that determine the overall effect. In addition, and as you probably realize, some pruning may be required to keep them at that height, and also, the spiral junipers will have to be kept spiraled by you on an ongoing basis or it will simply become an upright juniper. So ask how to do this when you buy them.


    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 3:15PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Is anyone else concerned about fitting at least five shrubs plus some liriope and several pansies into a 5' x 10' bed? [I looked up two cultivars used for spiral junipers and found that they grow 1 1/2' and 2' in height per year, so I'm really wanting to call them small trees rather than shrubs.]

Admittedly I don't have any real experience with shrubs which have to be pruned into submission a couple of times a year, so I really don't know how that goes -- particularly how small they can be kept without ending up with bald spots. Nobody seems to be worried about that, so maybe it won't be a problem. But the mature sizes for these guys -- even if there are only one each of the spirea, barberry, and boxwood -- certainly won't fit into a 5' x 10' area, even if the OP omits the liriope and pansies entirely.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 6:50PM
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I dunno - one can actually fit quite a few shrubs into 50 square feet :-) Boxwood grows as slow as molasses and 'Green Velvet' stays pretty compact anyway. Dwarf barberry - like 'Crimson Pygymy' - is about 2'x'2 full grown. Others - like 'Bagatelle' - stay even smaller. The spiraea can get to be a decent size in time but spiraea is one of those shrubs that can be cut back virtually to the ground when necessary or desired without concern. Spiral-trained upright junipers also stay pretty narrow, provided they are maintained in their spiral form. IMO, height is not really an issue either with these for this space and I like the idea that something is at least providing some vertical contrast.

I think they'll all fit fine and still have room for the liriope and annual color.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 9:35PM
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Are you talking about one of each except two for the juniper?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 10:01PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Thanks, gardengal48. I have no experience at all with boxwood, and the one I looked up was listed for a mature size of 4-6' tall and 5-6' wide. Also, one of the two spiral juniper cultivars had a mature width of 4-6' -- but the other was listed as 10'!

My only experience with junipers is with the prostrate Blue Carpets at my parents' former house; I used to weed and admire them, but they never needed to be trimmed! In the OP's plan, height is surely desirable, but there's the issue of either pruning the junipers till they're (maybe) bald so they stay short enough that they can be pruned to the desired spiral or letting them grow so they don't turn bald and then ending up with something too tall to prune (spiral or otherwise). Well, no garden lasts forever.

And like ink above, I wasn't sure if the OP meant only one boxwood, spirea, and barberry, or multiples.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 12:33AM
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There's boxwood and then there's boxwood :-) To be sure, many varieties DO have an ability to get pretty large but it takes them forever - boxwood seems to grow slower than just about any other plant I can think of. 'Green Velvet' is a cultivar that stays around 2'x2' or slightly larger. And we all know boxwood is immensely prunable.

And while they do take some maintenance to keep them looking good and trim, spiral-trained junipers are just a form of topiary. The routine pruning and grooming they require has the effect of keeping the plants a lot smaller than if they were allowed to grow naturally.....much like a form of bonsai. And the repetitive pruning actually keeps the foliage very dense and quite lush.

But I agree that planting in multiples in this case might crowd things a bit quickly but I think the OP could introduce pairs of at least the barberry and boxwood, although more maintenance in the form of pruning would be required and the pairing would result in a much more formalized (as opposed to natural looking) planting.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 10:44AM
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I find the combo of yellow (spirea) and red (barberry) foliage looks better when accompanied by yellow and/or reddish pink flowers (dicentra "luxuriant" is one example) - good luck trying what works best for you!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 4:09AM
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