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Columns

Learning to Grow: Small shrubs can allow sunshine, provide shade

Do you already have large trees in your garden? And lots of evergreen shrubs? Would you like to add a bit of color in a space-conscious way? The answer is small shrubs.

Small shrubs are a fairly new category that has become very popular in garden centers. They can be grown in pots, but more importantly, they can be tucked into corners of your garden. Here are some to consider.

• Abelia ‘Pinky Bells.’ This is a new plant, with some of the largest flowers on an Abelia. It starts flowering in the fall, making it most unusual and covers itself in bells. It has red new growth. Abelia is a zone 6 plant, so it will need lots of protection in winter to survive our zone 5 winters.  But if you want a plant that blooms from mid-summer to fall and is deer resistant, this is the plant to try! Abelias, once dull plants, have come a long way.

• Clethra alnifolia ‘Vanilla Spice.’ This is a newer form of summer sweet, a native shrub, with exceptionally fragrant flowers that are 50 percent larger than the standard Clethra. The foliage is deep green during the summer and has beautiful fall color. It is an excellent all-round performer.

• Deutzia gracilis ‘Chardonnay Pearls.’ This is a plant from a few years back (on Garden Design’s “Way Hot 100” list in 2006), but not often seen in landscapes despite its ease of culture and multiple seasons of interest. It produces tiny buds in April, followed by gorgeous fluffy white flowers in June, and then displays stunning lime yellow fall color. It is the perfect small plant and is completely hardy in zone 5a.

• Comanthospace japonica ‘Golden Angel’. You may have to look for this one, but it jumps out of the shade with golden leaves and white bottlebrush flowers. Completely winter hardy in our zone, it shines in a shade garden. It will tolerate more sun if given enough moisture.

• Donna Mack is a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener for Kane County. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166 for information.

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