Some flower borders are more interesting than others. Those that contain a mixture of small shrubs and perennials may be more appealing to the eye than compositions that contain only flowers. One reason is that ornamental shrubs enrich a flowerbed by providing additional structure, shape, texture, rhythm, and the sporadic color of seasonal flowers. All of these factors will influence where in the plant composition a shrub should be placed. Miniature ones usually show best at the perimeters of the flowerbeds.
Ornamental shrubs also act as a backdrop that enhances the beauty of nearby plants. In winter, when the perennial garden is barren, both evergreen and deciduous shrubs will continue to provide visual interest until the arrival of spring.
Recently, I discovered three miniature shrubs that I believe have merit for the front row of a perennial border. When their color and diminutive size popped out at me from the pages of a recent catalogue, I decided to order them for my test garden. Therefore, I draw readers attention with some reservation, as I will be unable to report on these plants until I have observed their performance.
Andromeda polifolia Blue Ice is an evergreen shrub with silver-blue foliage that resembles rosemary. A profuse bloomer, it produces delicate bell-shaped pink flowers in April and grows 30 cm or 12 inches tall and 50 cm or about 20 inches wide.
It is comfortable in either full sun or part shade, and thrives in Canadian Zone 2 aka USDA Zone 3. Suitable for rock gardens, it prefers acidic soil.
The Heather plant, Calluna vulgaris Country Wicklow grows 40 cm or about 16 inches high and wide. It has a low compact habit and its mid-green foliage is a fine background for double shell-pink flowers that bloom from July to October. A sun loving plant, it is hardy to Canadian Zone 4, i.e. USDA Zone 5.
Heath, Erica carnea Vivellii,, is a slow-growing, neat, low, broadly- spreading evergreen shrub with dark green foliage, tinged purple in winter. It prefers acidic soil conditions. This plant grows in sun to part shade to about 25 cm or 10 inches high and 50 cm or about 20 inches wide. Hardy to Canadian Zone 4 and USDA Zone 5, it will bloom from November to May, depending upon climate.