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Colourful New Shrubs for the Landscape

Colourful New Shrubs for the Landscape

Shrubs are the backbone of the landscape, whether they are planted en masse or as a specimen in a mixed border. I notice that a lot of gardeners at the nursery gravitate towards those shrubs with colourful foliage. It might be the bright yellow foliage of Dart’s Ninebark or Goldflame Spirea, or the variegated leaves of the Ivory Halo Dogwood. But the most popular shrubs seem to be those with dark purple foliage.

One of the best new introductions in ornamentals was Diablo Ninebark. It has been around since 1999 and has proved itself to be one of the hardiest, low maintenance, attractive plants in the landscape. The reddish –purple (almost black) leaves contrast with the plant’s white flowers. The foliage is the most dramatic in full sun. It grows 8-10 tall but can be kept at a lower height. This zone 2 shrub doesn’t seem to have any problems with pests or disease, a definite bonus.

The plant breeders have improved on a good thing with some new introductions of ninebarks. For those with a smaller garden, you might be interested in ‘Summerwine’. This new cultivar, a cross between Diablo and Nana, reaches a mature height of 4-6ft with its compact growing habit. I like to combine the dark burgundy foliage of these ninebarks with orange-red perennials, such as Rudbeckia.

The latest introduction comes from crossing the Dart’s Gold ninebark with Diablo. The result is orange – copper spring foliage that fades to red with maturity. It is known as Coppertina (‘Mindia’). This zone 3 shrub will provide dramatic colour in the partial shade. At the moment it is in limited supply.

For all of you who look longingly at the Japanese Maples but are not able to grow them, there is a new shrub that just might fill the void. The new elder, Sambucus ‘Black Lace’ with its lacy, finely cut foliage is even darker than Black Beauty. It is often mistaken for a Japanese maple.

In early summer creamy pink flowers bloom prolifically, accenting the almost black foliage. Later in the fall red berries appear. The berries will attract the birds or can be used in wine or jam. The fall foliage turns a rich red colour and extends the interest further. The mature height and width is 6-8 ft., making it ideal as a hedge or screen. I think training it as a small tree and using it, as a focal point in the garden may be its best use in the landscape. It is tolerant of most soils and in full sun for the best colour. The hardiness rating of ‘Black Lace ‘ is zone 4. As with other elders in our region, they often die back in the winter but grow quickly again from the roots. For a simple, show-stopping combination, plant ‘Royal Candles’ Veronica as a groundcover beneath this lovely small tree.

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