adding shrubs to flower beds

srenzinjMarch 26, 2012


I have a bunch of beds around our yard. We dug the beds several years ago and put in a shrubs, but mostly planted lots of flowers and invasive ground covers. sigh...

I need to add shrubs in various beds, each bed has its own set of issues. So, if you don't mind, I'd like to pick your brains about the mess we have created.

Weedy beds #1 and #2: We have a few sunny beds with hydrangeas and butterfly bushes. The soil (which has pretty decent soil)has been invaded with zoysia grass (thanks to our neighbors) and some invasive cheap ground cover I bought.

We're ripping out the ground cover and digging deep to get rid of the zoysia, a fight we know we'll never truly win.

We want to add smallish shrubs to take up some of the room in the beds and add winter interest (some evergreen too?). The beds are not wide and back up to picket fences.

Are there smallish shrubs indigenous to NJ that we can plant in front of the hydrangeas and butterfly bushes.

We also need to put in some taller shrubs near the back of the beds in between the butterfly bushes and hydrangeas.

If you can help me with this sad garden bed issue (and a few more beds we're dealing with), I'd greatly appreciate it.

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Maybe Ilex glabra has some potential for you.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 12:41AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

no pix.. huh???

you said: We're ripping out the ground cover and digging deep to get rid of the zoysia, a fight we know we'll never truly win.

===>>> then learn how to use.. and PROPERLY APPLY roundup or its cheaper generic ...

there is a conifer forum ... where we post bazillions of pix ... they come in all sizes. colors and shapes .. and many are suited to small garden beds..

which brings me to asking you to define what you mean when you say 'shrub' ... being a 'common' garden word.. it might help if you were to be a bit more specific in what you are looking for .. when i think of shrub ... i think flowering shrubs.. and a lot of them are ... or have the potential to get.. rather large.. [and no.. we dont need to argue about my definition.. again ]


    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 7:43AM
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MollyDog(6 PA)

Before Ken gets to you is there any way you can post some pictures? Also, what is your zone.

As far as the zoysia grass, have tou tried landscaping edging? After you clear your bed from as much grass as you can, dig a deep V to place the edging being sure to keep about an inch or so above ground. Behind the edging I would also keep about 6" sprayed with weed/grass killer to help prevent the zoysia from creeping in.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 7:50AM
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MollyDog(6 PA)

Ken, how did you beat me? We must have been posting at the same time?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 7:55AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I agree that edging is critical to avoid extra work of dealing with unwanted grass. Edging should be deep enough to thwart rhizomes, and top growth should be able to be controlled by mowing or weed-wacking. Mow before grass sets seed that can fall into the bed.

The 6" of dead zone you mention is a good way to get more weeds. As soon as somebody gets lax about spraying, weeds will grow there faster than the grass can creep back in.

After you install the edging, smother any grass in the bed with cardboard under mulch. Much easier than digging but you would probably want to wait until fall or next spring to start planting through it.

A landscape that includes never-ending applications of chemicals is a poor decision as a permanent plan, IMO.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 5:31PM
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Some small shrubs that I have used to good effect in my mixed beds are:

Spirea Lemon Princess - in my opinion one of best of the yellow leafed types

Spirea Galen - newer cultivar - nice blue green foliage

Spirea Golden Elf - very low growing, around 8-12 inches high, nice yellow leaf

Shrub rose Pink Gnome - very compact, tiny, glossy leaves, bone hardy & disease free. Blooms until early November. I use other small landscape roses but this is my favorite.

Perovskia (Russian Sage)- technically a sub-shrub

Weigelia My Money - very small 12-18 inches - great multi colored foliage -

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 6:38PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

You asked for shrubs "indigenous" to NJ. Is this what you really want or do you just want shrubs that will thrive in NJ?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 6:39AM
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MollyDog(6 PA)

Purpleinop, I do stand corrected. Continual application of any weed killer is not a good thing. However, whether by initial spray or manually digging out roots, a zoysia free barrier must be created before a permanent edge can be placed. Because zoysia will grow over the edging if not kept in check, a clean, small (not the 6" I previously stated) strip should be left so manual edging can be done routinely. Otherwise you will be back where you started,

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 8:02AM
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MollyDog(6 PA)

One of my absolute favorite shrubs is spirea Ogon. Ogon blooms early, early spring and asks very little in return. Long-lasting flowers, soft willowy branches, smaller stature, and apple green foliage make this shrub a winner in my book.

Here is a link that might be useful: Some recommended Shrubs

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 8:16AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Sorry, Molly, I didn't mean to correct anyone. There's no right/wrong to gardening, just approaches and results. Just trying to relate what I've experienced. I have a bermuda lawn and have hundreds of feet of bed/grass borders. Anyone battling a rhizomatous grass has my every sympathy! Bermuda can go up over a 12" high barrier. In OH, I had lovely (soft) NON-rhizomatous grass that was so much easier to keep separate from beds.

I think we are trying to say about the same thing and hopefully in these attempts at description, we'll draw enough mental pictures for everyone to feel like they know what to do and what materials will work in their yard (and budget.)

Rhizomatous grass will cross borders from above and below, so an ideal barrier will extend from somewhere under the soil to somewhere above the soil. The depth/height/width of your border in conjunction with whatever grass is invading beds (or ground cover is invading lawn from beds) determines the effectiveness of the border. That can vary greatly so there are many options.

If your edging is bricks or landscape timbers, for example, you can put some of that ugly plastic edging underneath, and lay the bricks or timbers on top of it. This greatly reduced the cost over burying bricks or timbers to achieve depth. This also gives a smooth edge to mow against. The 1-2" unmowed strip left next to the bricks or timber can be easily weed-wacked to stop any upwardly mobile rhizomes. This works for me. There are only a few spots with timbers which I found under/in the grass and I usually pick them up and run the mower wheels where they lay, no weed-wacking necessary for those spots. Occasionally I need to pick up a brick or timber and deal with a straggler going underneath, which I do by pulling or shovel if necessary. But the barrier works well for what it is. The width of the bricks and timbers is enough to slow the grass' encroachment enough that it's easily managed in a few occasional minutes. The initial work of chopping all of the roots and rhizomes at the edge is daunting, but this step is critical to the success of the border, to 2nd what Molly said.

But about that naked strip... I've overzealously done this and I've seen it in my parents' yard too - weed-wack the borders & edges so low that the soil is fully exposed. Next thing you know something starts to grow there at the edge of the grass, between the grass and your edging. Yellow clover is what we got - a whole new problem especially since it's already to ripe-seed-stage by the time one usually starts mowing. My personal experience strongly urges people to let the grass grow lushly up to the edge of the border and keep it mowed and weed-wacked often enough that it doesn't put seeds in the beds.

Wow I didn't mean to babble that long but without a good border, gardening is so much more work than it needs to be. The "fight we'll never truly win" comment really aroused my sympathies & empathies! ...

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 12:29PM
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Thank you to everyone. I'll try to post some photos.
I'm new at this - so I'm not sure of the proper words. I
When I initially posted, I thought I wanted bushes (not necessarily shrubs)that are indigenous to NJ. Maybe I DO want bushes that will survive in NJ. I love all of the different
ideas about shrubs!!! I would like some evergreens, too.
Thanks again for your patience with a newbie.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 8:54PM
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I just looked up the shrubs you all suggested. They're beautiful! Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 9:02PM
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