By Dr. Leonard Perry
Extension Nursery and Greenhouse Crops Specialist
University of Vermont
Shrubs serve many functions in our landscapes. They provide color in the form of flowers and fruits. They act as “walls” between the “rooms” of our landscapes and are often pruned into hedges for that purpose. Their fruits feed our birds, and their well-branched habits provide nesting sites. Shrubs also can add winter color and texture to perennial gardens.
Northern New England is the source of many wonderful native shrubs, many of which are commonly available at nurseries and garden centers. Others are more difficult to find but are well worth the search. Try these native shrubs in your landscape.
LARGE SHRUBS (OVER 15 FEET IN HEIGHT):
These can be limbed up into small trees or left branched to the ground as large shrubs in the back of the border.
Downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea): smooth gray bark; birds prize black fruits in midsummer; orange fall color.
Shadblow serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis): flowers a week later than Downy serviceberry; black fruits in midsummer are prized by birds; yellow-gold fall color.
Allegheny serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis): has bronze foliage in spring; produces tasty black fruits in midsummer, prized by birds; orange fall color.
MEDIUM SHRUBS (8 TO 15 FEET IN HEIGHT):
Gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa): suckering shrub with gray stems; white flowers in early summer; many birds eat the white fruits in fall.
American filbert (Corylus americana): many wild animals eat the fruits in fall; tolerates high pH soils.
Common witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana): requires moist soil; yellow flowers in October; yellow fall foliage.
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata): excellent plant for wet spots; bright red or orange fruits persist into December.
American elder (Sambucus canadensis): tolerates high pH soils; clusters of white flowers; tasty black fruits in early summer.
Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum): a durable plant; useful in hedges; tolerates high pH soils.
Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago): black fruits in fall attract many birds.
Highbush cranberry (Viburnum opulus trilobum): good screen plant; showy white flowers in June; many birds eat the red fruits in winter.
SMALL SHRUBS (UNDER 8 FEET IN HEIGHT):
Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa): suckering plant; does well in wet or dry sites; showy white flowers; birds eat the black fruits in later summer; wine-red fall color.
Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina): aromatic leaves with interesting texture; good plant for dry, sandy sites.
Redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea): good wetland plant; suckering stems develop good red color in winter.
Leatherwood (Dirca palustris): does best in moist, shady sites; yellow fall color.
Common juniper (Juniperus communis): tolerates dry, high pH soils; tolerates windy sites; evergreen.
Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum): best in moist-to-wet sites; white flowers in early summer.
Northern bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica): good plant for massing; does well in poor soils; aromatic foliage.
Bush cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa): tolerates high pH soils; colorful yellow flowers in midsummer.
Canadian yew (Taxus canadensis): hardiest yew; evergreen; most effective when left unpruned in shady site.