Deciduous shrubs are one of the mainstays of the garden. Almost as diverse as the plant kingdom, itself, they benefit the garden with structure, texture, color and fragrance. Their beauty and versatility make them an indispensable part of the home garden.
Deciduous shrubs are woody plants which lose their leaves in winter. They generally have a multiple-branching habit, rather than a tall, leggy, tree-like habit. They can be tall, like a small tree, but usually have a global, ovoid or pyramidal shape. The difference between a large shrub and a small tree is often a very fine distinction. Many plants, such as lilac, are often defined either way.
For the home gardener, deciduous shrubs can be divided between the structural and the ornamental. Structural shrubs are used to define space and provide transition from one space to another. Privit hedges are often used to provide borders and privacy, while barberry can be used as foundation plants. Ornamentals provide color with foliage and flowers, fragrance and textural interest. The rose is a classic deciduous ornamental shrub.
Use deciduous shrubs in place of annuals and herbaceous perennials where flowers are desired. A beautiful, colorful and fragrant garden can be created entirely with shrubs. A shrub garden is more permanent and easier to care for than a flower border. Shrubby perennials like lavender and rosemary can be planted near the kitchen door for fragrance, beauty and use in recipes.
The culture of a deciduous shrub depends on the variety. Give a deciduous shrub the sun or shade it requires as well as the water it needs. Clean up fallen leaves in fall and fertilize in fall or spring, according to the plant's needs. Pruning usually occurs in spring or early summer right after flowering.
Select varieties that do well in your area. Choose plants that have healthy leaves and good color. Make sure the plant has a good branch structure. Make sure the plant has a good root structure that fills the container but doesn't circle it. The freshest, healthiest plants are usually available at your garden center in spring and fall, which are also great times to plant.