New! Link to a shrub tour
on Arboretum Explorer.
Shrubs come in many shapes and sizes, but they can be broadly defined as multi-stemmed woody plants, usually under 20 feet (6.1 meters) tall. The shrub accessions in the Leventritt Shrub and Vine Garden have origins in North America, Europe, and Asia, and include wild-collected species as well as cultivated varieties. Within this group there’s a lot of diversity in size, growth habit, and ornamental features such as flowers, fruit, and fall foliage color.
- Flowering in the Garden peaks in late spring to early summer, but there are also shrubs that bloom at other times. Very early bloomers like intermediate witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia), white-flowered February daphne (Daphne mezereum f. alba), and dwarf fragrant viburnum (Viburnum farreri ‘Nanum’) bloom in late winter or very early spring. Late bloomers include seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides) in September and common witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana) in October or November.
- A number of shrubs in the Garden provide winter interest, but one of the most eye-catching is red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea). This large shrub displays bright red bark on its stems throughout the winter. The color is brightest on young stems so this plant is pruned back regularly to encourage new growth.
- Large shrub or small tree? Some plants in the Garden could be called either large shrubs or small trees. Seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides), native to China, is one such plant. It can have one or several main stems, typically has a low-branching habit, and grows 15 to 20 feet (4.6 to 6.1 meters) tall. Whether a tree or shrub, this handsome plant offers fragrant white flowers in September, followed by a display of rosy pink calyces, then boldly exfoliating bark through the winter.
- Subshrubs are plants that share traits both with herbaceous perennials and woody shrubs. Much of subshrubs’ top growth dies back in winter, but short sections (usually less than 10 inches [25 centimeters]) of woody stem persist at the base. Examples of subshrubs in the Garden include heathers (Erica spp.), bluebeard (Caryopteris x clandonensis), and English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia).
- Colorful fruit adds ornamental appeal to some of the Garden’s shrubs in fall and winter. Many viburnums (Viburnum spp.) and hollies (Ilex spp.) have showy fruit—notable examples include Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’, which also develops red to purple fall foliage color; Ilex collina, a rare native holly that the Arboretum conserves; and winterberry (Ilex verticillata), a deciduous holly represented in the Garden by several cultivars such as ‘Red Sprite’ and ‘Winter Red’. Ilex species are dioecious (male and female flowers are borne on separate plants) so both female and male plants are needed for fruit production.
- Alexander III, John H. 2010. A New Plant Introduction from the Arnold Arboretum: Ilex glabra ‘Peggy’s Cove’. Arnoldia 68(1): 44-45. [pdf]
- Connor, Sheila. 2003. Shrubs and Vines at the Arnold Arboretum: A History. Arnoldia 62(2): 3-14. [pdf]
- Del Tredici, Peter, Michael Dosmann, Tom Ward, and Julie Coop. 2003. Sun-Loving Shrubs and Vines for the Leventritt Garden. Arnoldia 62(2): 21-26. [pdf]
- Hahn, Carl R. 1983. Winter Gardens. Arnoldia 43(1): 2-12. [pdf]
- Koller, Gary. 1981. Shrubs for Hillsides and Embankments. Arnoldia 41(5): 168-194. [pdf]
- Koller, Gary. 1986. Seven-Son Flower from Zhejiang: Introducing the Versatile Ornamental Shrub Heptacodium jasminoides Airy Shaw. Arnoldia 46(4): 3-14. [pdf]
- Reed, Douglas P. and Gary Hilderbrand. 2003. Ordering and Terracing in the Leventritt Garden. Arnoldia 62(2): 16-19. [pdf]
- Rose, Nancy. 2008. The Fruits of Autumn. Arnoldia 66(2): 22-27. [pdf]
- Weaver, Jr. Richard E. 1981. Hamamelis ‘Arnold Promise’. Arnoldia 41(1): 30-33. [pdf]
Search for related articles in Arnoldia, the magazine of the Arnold Arboretum.