Old-fashioned flowering shrubs are desirable for their timeless beauty, hardy nature and nostalgic effect. Many old-fashioned shrubs are also fast growing and fragrant, making them the perfect choice for home gardeners who want a classic, easy-care specimen plant. Old-fashioned flowering shrubs are best used in traditional (but not formal) home gardens, or loose, cottage-garden-style landscapes.
Over 100 species of hydrangeas exist, according to the Emmitsburg News-Journal, all of which are desirable for their very large clusters of small flowers. They come in a wide range of sizes and cold-hardiness, which means that home gardeners just about anywhere can find a species and cultivar that works for their particular climate. Most, however, grow best in temperate climates. Hydrangea leaves are broad and ovate or shaped like oak leaves. Some have leaves that change color in the fall. Flowers come in shades of pink, white and blue. The flower clusters can be rounded, flat or cone-shaped. Hydrangeas love cool, moist soils and bloom from June to August, depending on the cultivar. H. macrophylla is one of the most popular species of hydrangeas.
Sweet Mock Orange
Sweet mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius) is a favorite with old-fashioned gardeners for its long, slender branches covered with fragrant, creamy-white flowers. This large (up to 12 feet tall), fast-growing, loose shrub blooms in the spring with flowers that smell like honeysuckle. While mock orange shrubs will grow in partial shade, they flower best and remain full, not leggy, if planted in locations that receive full sunlight, according to Mississippi State University. They also do not like overly wet soil. "Polar Star" is a cultivar that blooms with exceptionally large (2 inches in diameter) flowers and is often planted in groups to form a hedge.
Spireas are small old-fashioned flowering shrubs. Most are under 3 feet tall, according to the University of Vermont, and are best planted in masses or along a border or foundation. One exception is the "Vanhouette" spirea, which can grow up to 6 feet tall and has long, arching branches lined with creamy white flowers. Most cultivars of spirea, however, have flowers in shades of red or pink. Spirea shrubs bloom in late spring or early summer, depending on the cultivar, and thrive in full sunlight and rich, loamy soil.