Small shrub for afternoon sun, western exposure?

oakirisApril 30, 2011

I am looking for shrub suggestions for a small bed that is next to the sidewalk in the front of my house. I currently have some Irises, ornamental grass, peonies and artemesia planted in the bed, along with some ground covers and a shrub rose. I would like to find a small shrub for the center of it.

There is a large white poplar behind the bed (NOT something I planted but it's way too big for me to have it removed - can't afford it.... :-o ) so it gets shade to dappled shade in the morning but in the afternoon it gets the full blast of the sun with western exposure. The soil is alkaline clay.

By "small shrub" I mean that I want one that will only get about 4' tall by 3' wide and, of course, I want it to have four season interest, but that is in a perfect world so I don't know that such a thing exists.

Any suggestions, or should I just fill it up with perennials?


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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I like Viburnum carlesii Compacta

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 10:10PM
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I like Viburnums, too! That is a great suggestion. I wonder if I can get this one locally? Might not be able to get it until after it blooms, which would be a shame, but still it would be worth growing.

Thank you whaas.


    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 11:14PM
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I would suggest blueberries since they provide a nice source of food, flower in the spring, attract birds, and keep their leaves that turn red into early winter.

They are pretty easy to grow too.

Here is a link that might be useful: My blueberries

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 1:38PM
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I would absolutely love to grow blueberries here, but.... They like, actually need, acidic soil. Here in Colorado, like most of the southwest states, the soil is most definitely alkaline - as is the water, of course. To grow blueberries you would need to dig out the soil - we're talking about making a pretty deep and pretty wide planting hole in this nice clay soil, and you may have to plant two to get a good crop. And then you have to replace the soil with a lot of sphagnum peat moss. Plus, you need to keep them moist all of the time, including during the winter - not easy here in arid Colorado - and protect them from our drying winds.

I am not saying that the results wouldn't be worth it, blueberries are a wonderful fruit, but I am not willing to struggle quite that much. Now, you have brought up an idea for me though; I may try container growing them (but not in my front yard.)


Here is a link that might be useful: Blueberry growing in Colorado

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 11:57AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

If you are still looking I really enjoyed Hydrangea paniculata 'Tickeled Pink'. Not a three seasons plant but looks great May through October! If you search on that plant you should find my pics of the one I had.

Another shrub that I just loved was Northern Accents Ole rose. All of them had multiple flushes (vs. sporadic blooms and a couple flushes) throughout the year...its easily one the most under-rated shrub roses.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 9:21PM
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ademink(z5a-5b Indianapolis)

Ninebark 'Coppertina'...or any of the newer ninebarks...amazing!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 7:59AM
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I like all three of those suggestions. Thank you; I may see if I can use one or more of them elsewhere in my yard as I have already put a shrub in the bed I was asking about.

ademink: I actually ended up planting a ninebark in the bed - the 'Little Devil' - Ninebark 'Little Devil' It seems to be also known as 'Donna May' (its PPAF name?) The 'Coppertina' sounds more interesting but it can get a bit bigger than I wanted, so I am hoping that I will be pleased with 'Little Devil.'

It has done nothing but rain here since I planted the ninebark a week or so ago so I am hoping that it doesn't drown before it can become established - or grow so accustomed to this unusual amount of rain that it can't handle it when Colorado returns to its "normal" arid conditions!

whaas - I did find your pictures of 'Tickled Pink" - it looks like a very nice shrub. Here in Colorado, however, hydrangeas need afternoon shade and protection from winter winds, so it wouldn't be a good candidate for my front yard. I take it the rose and hydrangea were plants that you had planted in your old garden and then you moved? Are you going to plant them again or have you gone on to other things?


    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 11:57AM
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ademink(z5a-5b Indianapolis)

yay! great choice. all of the ninebark family are my favorite for multiseason interest :)

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 5:26PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

hey oakiris,

Yes nice choice. I wasn't aware of a dwarf ninebark. I could have used that one for a spot but I ended up with 'Centerglow'.

I actually had more problems with ninebark than any other shrub since they are so so suceptible to powdery mildew.

If they have adequate moisture I don't think its as much of an issue. Previously I had them in dry spots, which every source says they do well, but they were all stricken by the PM. I had a 'Summerwine' in moisture retentive soil and it did well, only small traces of PM.

Why does H. paniculata need afternoon shade and protection from wind? I had 'Quickfire' fully exposed to the northwest. The winds would come rolling down that hill with furry! They did very well...just needed adequete moisture during dry spells. They even have a little bit of fall color!

Yes, I planted in was a rookie mistake! That is the house I moved from. New one is/was a blank slate.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 3:34PM
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You had a nice garden going there, whaas, pairs and all! But, a blank slate must be lots of fun, too - no need to correct - or deal with - the mistakes of other homeowners who hadn't a clue about gardening. Like the 40' Colorado Blue spruces that one of the owners of my house planted under the phone lines on the south side of the back yard....

Why does H. paniculata need afternoon shade and protection from wind?

If you have never experienced the sunlight in Colorado or elsewhere in the Rocky Mtn region it is difficult to explain how incredibly intense it can be. Because of the altitude here (there is a reason why Denver is called the Mile High city!) we are in fact closer to the sun, plus there is not a lot of humidity in the air to diffuse the sunlight. Things that can be planted in full sun with impunity elsewhere will just burn up here. As for the wind, the winter wind is, as a rule, extremely dry, and can also cause a shrub or tree to dry up and die.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 10:16PM
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I am considering getting a Little Devil Ninebark..
I saw some in a garden center that seemed to have lost their bright red foliage.
Could you tell me your experience with yours?
As it got larger did it get less red?
I realize it has only been a few weeks.. just wondered if you or anyone else out there has had any of this experience?

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 10:42PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I saw a few 'Little Devils' at the nursery today. I really like them. Its seems like they have a darker foilage like 'Diablo' (I believe that is one of the parents?) but a smaller leaf and a much more compact/tight habit.

Its on my wishlist as a punch of dark color in the future.

From what I've noticed Ninebark's foilage tends to go limp more so than H. paniculata in the heat of the summer.

'Mystical Fire' looks like a cool new cultivar of H. paniculata. Another one for the wishlist!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 11:23PM
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@ Lynn - I've only had the 'Little Devil' for a few weeks, as you noted, so I can't say I have had a lot of experience with it, and it certainly hasn't grown much in size as yet! I am not sure what you mean by "bright red" foliage, either - the foliage on this ninebark, like that of Diablo, is a dark, mahogany/burgundy red color. Anyway, the colour of the foliage has not changed, and, to my knowledge, remains this colour until leaf drop.

@ whaas - I haven't noticed ninebark foliage going limp in the summer; I have either a 'Diablo' or 'Summer Wine' ninebark in my back yard that has been there for several years and it seems to maintain its foliage just fine during the summer, at least here in Colorado. As you mentioned, 'Little Devil' is a cross between Diablo and Dwarf ninebark. I'll see how it does in the summer - it will get a lot more afternoon sunlight than does the ninebark in my back yard.

One of the shrubs I would love to get, speaking of adding a punch of dark colours to the garden, is the Black Lace elderberry, Sambucus nigra. It gets up to 8' tall, however, so I haven't figured out where I can plant it so it can grow freely, but it is on my wish list.

I couldn't find the hydrangea you spoke of, the 'Mystical Fire.' Are you talking about 'Mystical Flame?' That one sounds pretty cool - white flowers during the summer and burgundy red flowers in the fall.


Here is a link that might be useful: Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace'

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 11:50AM
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