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5 flowering perennial shrubs for the spring garden

Hardy perennial shrubs have declined in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to the growing popularity of herbaceous perennials. It’s understandable in some ways as herbaceous perennials are quicker to make an impact in the garden. The value of hardy perennial shrubs should, however, not be forgotten. Where herbaceous perennials add form: hardy perennials add structure, along with height, colour, flower and scent in spring. Here are 5 of Ladybrook Nursery’s favourite spring-flowering shrubs.

Exochorda macrantha ‘The Bride’

Exochorda macrantha ‘The Bride’ is a rounded, deciduous shrub with arching branches bearing oblong, light green leaves and short racemes of small white flowers in late spring. It was rightly awarded an RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Plant in moist, free-draining, preferably acid to neutral soil in full sun to partial shade. Avoid shallow, chalky soil and unsheltered sites, and protect from late spring frosts.

Shrub

Height: 2m

Foliage: green turning yellow-orange in autumn

Flower colour: April to May

Flowering: profusion of white fragrant flowers

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

Cercis Siliquastrum

Cercis siliquastrum, or the Judas tree, is an RHS ABM award winning bushy, deciduous large shrub/small tree. Adored for its profuse display of small pea-like, pink/lilac flowers on bare branches in April-May and awarded an RHS A. Flowers are followed by purple tinted seed pods in July. The leaves of the Judas tree are green and heart shaped, emerging after its flowers and turning yellow in the autumn. Will grow to 4 x 4 metres in 20 years. C Siliquastrum will thrive on most soils, and is reasonably drought tolerant once established.

Large shrub/ tree

Height: 4 m

Foliage: blue-green heart-shaped leaves turning yellow in autumn

Flower colour: magenta pink/lilac clusters

Flowering: spring

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

Ribes sanguieum  ‘Pulborough Scarlet’

Ribes sanguieum ‘Pulborough Scarlet’ is an upright, bushy, deciduous shrub with rounded, lobed, toothed, aromatic, mid- to bright green leaves and pendent racemes of tubular, reddish-pink flowers in spring followed by spherical, blue-black fruit. It has been awarded an RHS Award of Garden Merit. Grows well in most moderately fertile, well-drained soil in full sun, reaching a height of 3 metres after 5 to 10 years.

Shrub

Height: 3m

Foliage: bright green

Flower colour: dark red clusters

Flowering: April

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

Berberis darwinii ‘Nana’

Berberis darwinii ‘Atropurpurea Nana’ is a very small, deciduous shrub with reddish-purple leaves that turn redder in autumn. It bears small, yellow flowers in spring and dark-red berries in autumn. It has been awarded an RHS Award of Garden Merit. Plant in any soil, other than waterlogged, in a sunny position for best fruit and autumn colour. ‘Atropurpurea Nana’ will reach a height of 1m and a spread of 1m after 10-20 years.

Shrub

Height: 60cm -1 m

Foliage: evergreen

Flower colour: yellow

Flowering: spring

Aspect: full sun or partial shade

Viburnum ‘burkwoodii’

Viburnum is a large semi-evergreen shrub with glossy ovate leaves. In spring, it has dense clusters of heavily-scented white flowers that open from red buds. In autumn, its leaves turn orange and red and it bears red berries that ripen to black. Plant in moderately fertile, humus rich, moist but well-drained soil in sun or shade. V. burkwoodii will reach a height of 2.5m and a spread of 2.5 m after 10-20 years.

Shrub

Height: 2.5m

Foliage: evergreen – dark green

Flower colour: white – fragrant followed by red fruits

Flowering: April to May

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

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