10 Large Shrubs for When You Can't Have a Tree

LittleGardenBeauty
Published on November 23rd 2019
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A close up of shrub in a grass area.
This 30th November, the Woodland Trust is hoping to encourage a million of us to plant a tree as part of their "The Big Climate Fightback".
They are hosting events all over the country, but if you are unable to get to one, you could still plant a tree in your garden. We've put together a Candide Top of the Crops collection in our Knowledge Base, of the top ten "Small trees for Small gardens".
However, if a tree is not an option, don't be disheartened. I've put together a list of shrubs which might work for you and provide wildlife with the same benefits.

1: Berberis darwinii

A close up of a Berberis darwinii covered in yellow flowers. Taken by Candide user prkohler
A Barberry in full flower, photo taken by Candide user prkohler
This dense evergreen shrub gives the most stunning display of flowers in spring, which then develop into small juicy berries the bird's feast on in autumn. Its thorny stems provide safe nesting sites for birds and a defensive barrier against intruders. It is a hardy plant, happy in full sun and will grow in most soils except dry.

2: Linnaea x grandiflora

A close up of the delicate pink flowers of Abelia x grandiflora 'Sherwoodii' by Candide user Jessica_plant_lover24
The delicate pink flowers of Glossy Abelia 'Sherwoodii' taken by Candide user Jessica_plant_lover24
Once known as Abelia, this low maintenance shrub only needs a light prune in late winter, which will reward you with clusters of pink-tinged, white, bell-shaped flowers in summer. A favourite of pollinators, it's delicate scent will also delight our senses as well. It grows to a medium-sized rounded shrub and will tolerate a partial shade location but flowers best in full sun.

3: Garrya elliptica

A close up of the silk tassels of the Garrya elliptica bush, phot by Candide user BircherGranola
The delicate hanging tassels of the Garrya elliptica that give it it's common name, taken by BircherGranola
This bushy shrub will provide a talking point in winter when its long silvery catkins put on a show. However, it will also help show off other plants throughout the year by providing an evergreen background to compliment their flowers. This plant is drought tolerant once established and loves sunny locations.

4: Cornus mas

A close up of the yellow flower buds on a Cornus mas just about to burst open, taken by Candide user Nightwolf
The excitement of waiting for the buds of a C. mas 'Sunshine' to burst open, taken by Nightwolf.
An all-round star, this shrub has been awarded medals from Horticultural societies around the world for its reliability. It's glorious bright yellow flowers appear in late winter before it's leaves. In summer these can develop into glossy red edible fruit that can be used for syrups and preserves.

5: Enkianthus campulatus

A Enkianthus showing it's pink Autumn coloured leaves, photo taken by Candide user ColbyAmes
Showing it's colourful Autumn colour, taken by ColbyAmes
Preferring ericaceous (acid to neutral) soil, this beautiful plant can be grown in large containers enabling us to enjoy its spectacular autumn colour. A native of Japanese woodlands, in late spring to early summer it produces clusters of cream and pink nodding, bell-shaped flowers that make me think of fairy hats.

6: Buddleia

A Buddleia tree in a garden, in front of a fence. Taken by Candide user felco
Buddleia's can be pruned to look like multi stemmed trees like this plant in Candide member felco's garden.
A popular choice for butterflies and all pollinating insects, this hardy shrub is easy to grow. Once established, it can be hard pruned back every spring to keep it to the desired space. And for those in the countryside, deer and rabbit's tend to ignore it.

7: Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin.'

A hedge of Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin' showing it's vivid red new leaves through an iron fence. Photo taken by Candide member AlanGardenMaster
P. 'Red Robin' makes a colourful hedge with it's vivid red new leaves, taken by Candide member AlanGrandMaster.
This plant is frequently overlooked because it was widely grown around car parks and new housing estates, but it's such a versatile shrub. It can be cut as a hedge or pruned into a specimen plant showing off its bright red new foliage, and cutting back in early summer will encourage a second flush. This evergreen (and red) plant will rarely need watering once established and rarely suffers from pest and diseases.

8: Tamarix ramosissima

A Tamarix tree in a garden showing it's long feathery pink flowers, photo taken by Candide user TheGardeners-dog.
Tamarisk shrubs can grow into lovely shapes, photo taken by TheGardeners-dog.
With its feathery pink flowers in late summer and autumn, you can't but help notice this plant. It's an excellent plant for exposed or windy sites such as coastal gardens, and pollinating insects find it a valuable food source later in the year.

9: Mahonia x media 'Charity.'

A mahonia shrub covered in yellow flowers in front if a garden wall, underplanted with perennials. Photo by Candide user annier.
The lower branches and leaves can be removed to create a tree look, like this plant in Candide member annier's garden.
In late winter when very little else is flowering, Mahonia comes into its own, providing us with colour as well as much needed nectar to our wildlife. Its open branches provide perfect roosting spots for the birds to sit, and eat the blue berries which develop in summer. It will perform best in a shaded position where the bright yellow flowers will stand out even more.

10: Camellia

A close up of a Camelia shrub showing its delicate pink flowers and unopened buds. Photo taken by Candide member Justyourcupofchi.
The dark green glossy leaves are almost as attractive as their colourful flowers, photo by Justyourcupofchi.
There are so many cultivars of this perennial favourite evergreen on the market, that will be one to suit you. It's evergreen glossy leaves provide some much-needed colour during the winter and provide a perfect foil for its showy flowers that appear from late spring. An ideal plant to grow in large containers, it's a perfect addition to a town courtyard garden, where it can benefit from the more sheltered conditions.
If you're already growing these, check out the Large Shrub collection in Knowledge. Hopefully, we'll have suggested something just perfect for you to add to your space at the end of the month.
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