Old-fashioned shrubs grew so quickly that pruning was a constant problem for gardeners. But new hybrid varieties grow far slower and are “pretty maintenance free,” says Bloom garden columnist Moya Andrews. That’s just one of the lessons home gardeners will glean from Andrews’ new book, Shrubs Large and Small: Natives and Ornamentals for Midwest Gardens, published this spring by IU Press. Once established, she says, these newer shrubs, including dwarf varieties, “are not very demanding.”
Andrews and coauthor Gillian Harris advise both experienced and novice gardeners on which shrubs to plant and where to plant them. Shrubs, the authors say, have many attributes that are appealing to home gardeners: They are long-lived; they offer a wide range of sizes, shapes, colors, and textures; and they provide seasonal variation throughout the year.
Andrews and Harris recommend a mix of native shrubs and showier ornamentals—“things we have known and loved like roses or lilacs.” Most of the imported ornamentals, also called exotics, “are stalwarts that have lived in our gardens for so long,” Andrews says. But they aren’t a food source for insects. Do you want butterflies or birds in your garden? Shrubs Large and Small will tell you to plant aromatic sumac, ninebark, silky dogwood, or red or black chokeberry. And the book will tell you to avoid invasive species like barberry or burning bush “that can escape into the wild and destroy native areas. Plant boxwood instead of privet,” Andrews advises.
The 144-page book, which includes botanically correct illustrations by Harris, is available both in print and as an e-book. Gardening has long been a passionate avocation for Andrews, who retired as dean of the faculties and vice-chancellor for academic affairs at IU. She is also the author of Perennials Short and Tall: A Seasonal Progression of Flowers for Your Garden, available from IU Press.