How to Grow Shrubs in Small Garden

In a small garden it is important to have attractively shaped shrubs and to avoid planting them too close together, thus spoiling the form. You could choose all evergreen plants but you will probably want to have a balance between evergreen and deciduous and with the right choice it is possible to have something of interest to look at all year round.


If you have acid soil you can grow camellias which thrive in sheltered, shaded conditions. One of the most popular varieties is ‘Donation’ with pink, semi-double flowers. ‘Anticipation’ is hardier with large crimson flowers and it is one of the best camellias for a small garden. Another acid lover is the skimmia, an evergreen that produces white flowers in late spring followed by bright red berries that last all winter.

Holly bushes will grow in the shade and variegated ones such as ‘Silver Queen’ and ‘Golden King’ will brighten up a dark corner. For berries to be produced you will need a male and female variety and strange though it may seem ‘Silver Queen’ is male and ‘Golden King’ is female!

Shrubs  Small Garden

Cotoneasters provide a good show of red berries in autumn and there are spreading plants such as Cotoneaster horizontalis (useful for covering manholes), upright ones such as Cotoneaster jranchetii that will fan against a wall and large ones like Cotoneaster cornubia that will grow up to 6 m (20 ft) high. Some are evergreen and others are deciduous.

Hydrangeas like a sheltered position where the buds will not be damaged by late frosts. The lace-cap hydrangeas are particularly attractive with their large, flat flower heads. ‘Blue Wave’ and ‘Mariesii’ are both good varieties and their flower colour will depend on what type of soil they are grown on; blue on acid soil and pink on alkaline.

Yellow flowered shrubs suitable for the shade are Hypericum ‘Hidcote’—not to be confused with the ground-cover hypericum—and Potentilla fruticosa. There are also pink and red potentillas but I still prefer the original yellow.

If you have an acid soil you can grow rhododendrons and azaleas. There are some splendid dwarf rhododendrons, growing about 1 m (3 ft) high, and the yellow flowered ‘Cowslip’ does particularly well in the shade.

The Japanese azaleas do better than the deciduous ones in shade and there are some lovely subtle colours such as ‘White Lady’ and ‘Hinomayo’ (pink) as well as the stronger oranges, scarlets and bright pinks. If you do not have an acid soil they can always be grown in tubs containing ericaceous compost, which can be bought at garden centres.

Bamboos are popular and look especially good in a modern design or Japanese-type garden. It is best to grow one of the smaller varieties such as Arundinaria murielae or Arundinaria viridistriata which are not so invasive as the larger ones.


For all soil types there is the evergreen elaeagnus and the variety Elaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’ creates a splash of colour with its green and gold leaves. For more sombre tones the larger grey-leaved ElaeagnusX ebbingei is particularly attractive. Euonymusfortunei can be grown against a wall or free-standing. ‘Emerald ‘n Gold’ is a variegated form although the colour may not be as good in heavy shade.

Fatsia japonica is often thought of as a tender plant but it is hardy in many areas and is well suited to walled gardens in sun or shade. It can be planted in the garden but also looks good when grown in a pot. It has large glossy leaves and small white flowers in early autumn.

It really is worth growing a philadelphus if you have got room. The lovely white flowers look especially good in evening light in summer and they fill the air with their orange-blossom scent. ‘Manteau d’Her-mine’ only grows 1 m (3i ft) high and ‘Belle Etoile’ reaches 1.5 m (5 ft) and has white flowers with a purple blotch.

Also grown for its scented flowers is the daphne and Daphne mezereon provides welcome colour early in the year with its clusters of pink flowers followed by red berries. It is a deciduous shrub but Daphne odora is evergreen, again flowering early, with pinkish-purple blooms. ‘Aureomarginata’ has cream-edged leaves.

The pink flowered weigela is another attractive shrub and there is a variegated form called Weigela Jlorida variegata.

Hamamelis (witch hazel) flowers in winter on bare stems, like the daphne. It prefers a slightly acid soil and a sheltered position to do well. Hamamelis mollis pallida produces the best flowers, bright yellow and fragrant.

For early summer flowers there is Deutzia ‘Mont Rose’, a deciduous shrub with rose-pink flowers and arching stems. Then later in the summer come the buddleias with their blue, purple or white flower spikes that attract butterflies—giving them the common name of butterfly bush. Hybrids of Buddleia davidii include ‘Black Knight’ (deep purple), ‘Royal Red’ and ‘White Bouquet’.

Shrubs  Small Garden

Griselinia and pittosporum are both grown for their foliage. The griselinia is a slightly tender shrub that may need protection until it becomes established. It can grow up to 7.5 m (25 ft) high but can be kept smaller by pruning. Pittosporum crassifolium is one of the hardiest varieties and it has leathery green leaves with white undersides. The deep purple flowers appear in the spring followed by seed capsules.

Hardy fuchsias will make quite large shrubs in many areas and even if they are cut back by frost they will often survive. ‘Riccartonii’ is one of the hardiest, growing to about 1.5 m (5 ft) and it has crimson and mauve flowers. ‘Lady Thumb’ and ‘Tom Thumb’ are both good small varieties.

If you want something a bit more exotic you could grow desfontainea, an evergreen shrub which needs the shelter of a wall. It has dark green holly-like leaves and produces tubular scarlet flowers with yellow tips in early summer.

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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