If you’re deciding on a new shrub for the garden, it’s a good idea to think about how it’ll look throughout the year and whether it can offer more than one season of interest.
As well as flowers, there are other things to consider, such as foliage colour, shape and size; stem colour and arrangement; fruits and seedheads.
Keep wildlife in mind when choosing your plant, too. Flowers, fruit, nuts and seeds provide a vital source of energy for a wide range of garden foliage. And foliage will keep caterpillars well fed, which in turn are eaten by birds and hedgehogs.
Consider some of these beautiful shrubs for year-round interest in your garden.
Buffalo currant (Ribes odoratum)
Most flowering currants like this Ribes odoratum, and others like Ribes sanguineum and Ribes x beatonii, provide multi-season interest in the form of spring flowers, summer berries, and colourful autumn foliage. Annual pruning will keep them bushy and productive.
Height x spread: 2.5m x 2.5m.
Common myrtle (Myrtus communis)
As evergreens, myrtles provide year-round colour, but in summer they produce sweetly-scented flowers with beautiful long stamens. In autumn, glaucous blue berries adorn the branches. Spring-flowering bulbs and perennials make great planting companions.
H x S: 3m x 3m.
Fragrant winter hazel (Corylopsis glabrescens)
Fragrant winter hazel looks its best in early spring, when the pendulous flowers dangle from its beautifully arranged branches. As spring progresses into summer, the foliage serves as a leafy backdrop for other plants, before turning fiery shades of orange and red in autumn.
H x S: 8m x 4m.
Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’
As a UK native, the guelder rose is a valuable wildlife plant to have in the garden. From late spring to early summer it produces large white flowerheads, followed by translucent red berries in autumn, which are loved by birds. The leaves then turn a vivid shade of red before falling.
H x S: 8m x 4m.
Large witch alder (Fothergilla major)
Commonly known as the large or mountain witch alder, Fothergilla major is a beautiful deciduous shrub with blazing autumn foliage. In late spring, it’s covered in fragrant, bottlebrush flowers. Best grown in acidic soils.
H x S: 2.5m x 150cm.
Nandina domestica ‘Obsession’
Though commonly known as sacred bamboo, Nandina domestica is actually an evergreen shrub found in the Berberidaceae (barberry) family. It has an attractive multi-stem growth habit, and provides colourful new foliage, panicles of white summer flowers and red berries in autumn.
H x S: 1.5m x 1.5m.
Calycanthus × raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’
Calycanthus, known as allspice or sweetshrub, is a fascinating genus of beetle-pollinated shrubs with light scented late spring flowers and camphor-scented bark. As autumn arrives, the leaves turn a lovely shade of yellow before falling.
H x S: 3m x 4m.
Smoke bushes are versatile shrubs or small trees that can either be hard pruned annually to produce a dramatic display of foliage, or left to grow and produce their distinctive flower plumes. Cultivars like ‘Grace’ and ‘Velvet Cloak’ have intensely coloured red-purple foliage. The leaves turn bonfire shades of orange-red before falling.
H x S: 6m x 4m.
Skimmia japonica ‘Foremanii’
Skimmias are reliable, easy-to-grow evergreens that enjoy growing in shady areas. In spring, they produce clusters of fragrant flowers that are much visited by pollinators. The flowers are followed by bright red berries that last into winter. Great in containers.
H x S: 60cm x 60cm.
Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Victoria’
These evergreen, acid-loving shrubs are prized for both their delicate, bell-shaped flowers and for the intensity of their autumn colour. To add further interest, they clip well into topiary shapes or can be cloud pruned. Enkianthus to grow include Enkianthus perulatus, Enkianthus cernuus f. rubens and Enkianthus campanulatus.
Like other groups such as viburnums and enkianthus, there are a generous amount of Euonymus species to grow, including UK natives like Euonymus europaeus. This and other species like Euonymus alatus are valued for their colourful winged fruits, which appear in spring, followed by a dazzling display of autumn colour before leaf drop.
H x S: 2.5m x 3m.
More shrubs to consider
Berberis darwinii: thorny evergreen with bright orange flowers followed by glaucous blue berries. H x S 3m x 3m
Clerodendrum trichotomum: deciduous shrub with fragrant summer flowers followed by turquoise berries surrounded by star-shaped calyces. H x S: 5m x 5m
Decaisnea fargesii: deciduous, upright shrub with racemes of yellow-green flowers followed by almost metallic bean pods. H x S: 5m x 5m
Heptacodium miconioides: deciduous, multi-stemmed shrub with fragrant white flowers, bright red calyces and colourful autumn foliage. H x S: 6m x 3m