The Role of Shrubs

Shrubs-placed-to-hide-the-boundaries webAs a landscape designer, I consider shrubs to be the backbone of good design for the exterior of a home. Here are a variety of significant roles that shrubs play.


Traditional garden standards include Indian hawthorns or mock oranges along the base of homes as foundation shrubs. Gardeners practicing waterwise landscaping might use bird of paradise, New Zealand tea trees (a bush despite its name) or butterfly bush. Those who are not used to our dry climate may decide to plant lilacs, hydrangeas or other large bushes with showy flowers — often pruned to fit the space. Regardless of the variety used, these foundation shrubs link the house to the surrounding landscape.

Accent and anchor

Imagine a planter bed filled with small and mid-sized perennials or succulents and grasses. All these plantings are more or less the same height and “weight,” so they do not provide a resting place for the eyes. A few taller shrubs not only serve as accents, but also give strength and permanence to the scene.

Organization and structure

Placing a shrub in the background, perhaps spreading like a sheltering umbrella over your soft perennials, will give your planter bed instant organization and structure.

Attracting wildlife

Some shrubs enrich our gardens by serving as providers of food and cover for birds, butterflies and insects. Cotoneaster, Buddleia, azalea, honeysuckle and shrubs with berries are magnets for bringing wildlife into your yard.


Christiane Holmquist
Christiane Holmquist Landscape Design

Categories: Gardening