General Discussion:

Help me choose a shrub

Messages posted to thread:

Griz09-Jun-03 05:27 PM EST 6   
Ed09-Jun-03 07:14 PM EST 5a   
Griz09-Jun-03 09:33 PM EST 6   
Susan10-Jun-03 07:41 AM EST 6a   
Griz10-Jun-03 06:25 PM EST 6   
Susan10-Jun-03 07:02 PM EST 6a   
Simon16-Jun-03 02:00 PM EST 6a   
Dan19-Jun-03 05:30 PM EST 6   

Subject: Help me choose a shrub
From: Griz
Zone: 6
Date: 09-Jun-03 05:27 PM EST

Hello everyone. I'm looking for some help in choosing a shrub, perhaps 2 or 3. It will be planted at the back of my property and it's main purpose will be to provide some privacy for my firepit & picnic table area in the back corner. It should be something that is fast growing and reach a height of about 8-10 ft, up to 15 ft or so would be OK too as there is lots of room. I live in southern Ontario, very close to Lake Erie, zone 6, the area is considered Carolinian. The soil is clay. It will get full sun, southern exposure, until about 1 PM and dappled shade after that. The area is a bit low and is often soggy, especially in the spring. Any standing water (an inch or so after a heavy rain) does not stay too long and does eventually move through, thanks to a drainage swale very close to where I intend to plant. The ground is generally firm by May/June but remains moist all year even in the heat of summer. I could raise the area a bit using the the existing clay soil and/or could bring in some better soil but I would prefer to find something that likes the conditions "as is" as much as possible. The spot is also pretty well sheltered. A native plant that would provide good cover and/or food for birds would be an added bonus.

I look forward to reading your suggestions!

Subject: RE: Help me choose a shrub
From: Ed
Zone: 5a
Date: 09-Jun-03 07:14 PM EST

You have an almost unlimited choices, so much depends on personal preference. I would recommend you consider Amur Maple as a hardy,attractive, fast-growing shrub though it resembles a multiple-trunk tree. Attractive late summer colouring, but sorry, the birds will dine elsewhere.

Subject: RE: Help me choose a shrub
From: Griz
Zone: 6
Date: 09-Jun-03 09:33 PM EST

Thanks Ed. I'll have a look at the amur maple, I'm familiar with them but haven't seen one in a long while. The fall colour sounds nice.

Good to know I have plenty of options but it does make things more difficult for me. Perhaps this will help a bit. I'm interested in something with thick dense foliage. The back yard has a large willow and several large black ash trees which cast the afternoon shade where I want to plant but there is full sun til past noon. Fast growth is a priority. As long as there is lots to choose from, a plant that is attractive to the birds is important to me. I have tidier front yard with showier plants but I'm going for a more natural look in the back.

Any other ideas?

Subject: RE: Help me choose a shrub
From: Susan
Zone: 6a
Date: 10-Jun-03 07:41 AM EST

You could use one of my favorite shrubs - highbush cranberries - either the European Viburnum opulus or the American Viburnum trilobum. Both are smothered in June with white flowers that look like lacecap hydrangeas. In the late summer red berries form that stay on the branches all winter for lots of winter color. (picture of berries in late summer:

Birds will eat the berries in late winter - the berries need freezing for them to be very palatable for the birds but they become a food source at a time when there's not much else around. The American variety 'Wentworth' has nice red fall leaves; my Europeans ones don't have much fall color. They can take sun or shade but bloom best in sun - you would get good bloom in your location. They grow well in my clay soil and aren't bothered my getting a bit wet at times. They get to be about 10 feet tall if you let them. They throw up suckers from the roots that will grow really fast if you want a tall shrub fast. In the first year the suckers are just straight sticks but they branch out and flower in the second year.

Another shrub I have that would meet your requirements is Elder - either American Sambucus canadensis or one of the European Elders - Sambucus nigra. They come in varieties with lots of interesting foliage including the recently introduced 'Black Beauty' with purple foliage and pink flowers. The flowers are usually white and very showy in July. They are followed by dark berries that the birds will strip as soon as they ripen. The shrubs are FAST growing and loose in form. I cut mine back to 18-24" in spring and they're 6'+ by bloom time! They sucker freely from the roots to form a large thicket if you let them. They have no particular winter interest compared to the cranberries (which are not true cranberries....)

Either of these shrubs would meet your screening needs while adding color and benefit the birds.

Subject: RE: Help me choose a shrub
From: Griz
Zone: 6
Date: 10-Jun-03 06:25 PM EST

Thank you Susan.

These sound like two great suggestions! I've looked them up and they sound perfect. I hope to get this done in the next week or so and I'll post back to let you know what I end up with. (likely both) Anyone have experience with Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)? I came across it while looking up the highbush cranberry and it sounds like it may work for me too.

Other suggestions are welcome. You know how it is, you go out to get a couple of plants and come home with a van-load. :-)

Subject: RE: Help me choose a shrub
From: Susan
Zone: 6a
Date: 10-Jun-03 07:02 PM EST

I have Nannyberry too - also Summer Snowflake. All the viburnums are nice and good possibilities. The cranberries, though, have the longest period of interest because the winter berries are so colorful so I'd rate those higher than the other viburnums for that reason. I'm pruning my nannyberry to be a small tree - you could do that as a companion to the others in shrub form.

(Believe me, I know that problem about coming back with a van-load of plants!)

Subject: RE: Help me choose a shrub
From: Simon
Zone: 6a
Date: 16-Jun-03 02:00 PM EST

Why don't you try bamboo? It's fast growing, makes an excellant evergreen screen, and is hardy in southwestern Ontario. Both Phyllostachys aureosulcata and Arundinaria gigantea (NA native) would be suitable.

Subject: RE: Help me choose a shrub
From: Dan (
Zone: 6
Date: 19-Jun-03 05:30 PM EST

Simon's suggestion of bamboo might work for you if you have lots of room. It is a stunningly beautiful plant, especially in winter. Plant it in a large, buried container. It is the only plant I know of that can poke through a 45 mil pond liner ( it did in our demonstration pond in several places!!!) What about the various chokeberries or aronia?

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