The Q&A Archives: Shrubs in Evergreen Hedge

Question: I have about 200ft of stockade fence along which I have planted small arborvitae. I would like to grow something in between the evergreens while they slowly grow, preferably a tall shrub or vine that will fill in quickly. The fence runs from east to west. Any suggestions on what to plant?

Answer: There are lots of great shrubs to fill in while your evergreens grow. In fact, mixing evergreens and deciduous shrubs makes for a much more interesting border. Instead of placing the new shrubs right between the arborvitaes, consider widening the border and placing them in front of the arborvitae, so you won't have to remove them when the arborvitae get large.

You might consider using several different shrubs, which will give a more natural feel to the area, and also provide different areas of focus during the year as shrubs bloom. Also, a mixed border will attract a variety of birds and butterflies.

For example, it's easy to pick a spot for summer shrubs. What do you see from your patio or most used outside space? That area could be interplanted with summer blooming shrubs such as buddleia (butterfly bush), clethra (summersweet), cotinus (smokebush), potentilla, hydrangea, or hibiscus.

Fall color is apparent in shrubs such as caryopteris (blue mist), fothergilla, some varieties witch hazel, and amur maple. Plant them where their color will be best displayed.

Winter standards include red twig dogwood, and many viburnums which may have berries carried throughout the winter. Position these for a view from the house.

There are so many possible spring blooming shrubs! Choices abound! Many are fragrant so place them closest to the walkways or driveways.

Consider visiting local public gardens, neighbors with gardens, or a local nursery to help you decide on plants. This will also help ensure that the plants you choose are hardy in your region.

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