Garden Photo of the Day

Shrubs for High-Impact, Low-Work Gardening

Elle Ronis sent in a lot of terrific photos of her garden. (See a previous post of her garden here.) After looking through them, I wanted to feature her incredible collection of tree and shrubs.

Trees and shrubs sometimes take a back seat to the showy flowers of annuals and perennials, but many of them put on pretty incredible flowering displays of their own, not to mention the exhibition of various colors, forms, and textures their leaves provide. On top of that, they are some of the lowest-maintenance plants you can add to a garden. Annuals need to be replanted every year, perennials have to be cut back and divided periodically, but once a shrub is established, it can pretty much take care of itself as long as it is planted in the right spot. If you have a big garden and a shortage of time, trees and shrubs like some of these can be your shortcut to a garden you can spend more time enjoying and less time working in.

This Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Toyama Nishiki’, Zones 5–9) makes a delicate mound of fine-textured leaves.


A close-up of ‘Toyama Nishiki’. Nishiki means “brocade,” a patterned cloth, in Japanese, and is usually in the names of variegated plants. This photo shows that the leaves are indeed patterned. The white flushes pink in the spring and yellow in the fall for a dynamic performance from one plant.


Japanese maples aren’t the only ones with variegated foliage. This is ‘Esk Sunset’ sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Esk Sunset’, Zones 4–8), which will grow into a large shade tree, 20 to 30 feet tall, covered with these dramatically patterned leaves.


Daphne genkwa (Zones 5–9) is a beautiful shrub that completely covers itself with lavender blossoms in spring. Daphnes are related to lilacs, and you can see the resemblance in the flower masses of this shrub. Some daphnes are known to be fussy, but this is one of the easiest to grow.


Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia, Zones 4–9) is an evergreen shrub related to rhododendrons native to eastern North America. They’re always beautiful, but how about this double-flowered version, called ‘Madeliene’?


This double-flowered mountain laurel ‘Madeliene’ is just gorgeous! Though the species is native to the United States, this variety was found in a garden in New Zealand.


A golden chain tree (Laburnum × waterei, Zones 5–7) drips chains of yellow flowers over a mass of other shrubs. This spectacular tree resents hot, humid weather, but if your climate is right for it, there are few trees more beautiful. The photo also shows one of the best things about gardening with trees and shrubs: this mass of plants is beautiful and is growing so thickly that no weed has a chance of getting a toehold.


Have a garden you’d like to share?

Have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a particular collection of plants you love, or a wonderful garden you had the chance to visit!

To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.

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View Comments


  1. User avater
    treasuresmom 10/01/2019

    Oh, my, those JMaple's are out of this world!!

  2. cheryl_c 10/01/2019

    Elle, thanks so much for sharing these wonderful shrubs. I'd never seen that daphne before, and didn't know there was one that was a bit easier to grow! It is gorgeous. Your yard must have an incredible number of 'rooms' - I didn't recognize any areas you showed last time in today's photos! Amazing!

  3. btucker9675 10/01/2019


  4. User avater
    RonaldTague 10/08/2019


  5. User avater
    AshlieDPerron 10/25/2019

    It's Amazing!

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