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“True North” Cold Climate Shrubs for Stunning Canadian Gardens

“True North” Cold Climate Shrubs for Stunning Canadian Gardens

Five deciduous shrubs that that look great through all four seasons.

It's easy for Northern gardeners to think “evergreen" when it comes to shrubs. With our short growing season there is little time to enjoy deciduous shrubs before their leaves drop in the autumn, leaving us with months of barren branches. But there are deciduous shrubs that are just as attractive in the dead of winter as the peak of summer. Some varieties produce colourful bark to brighten up the winter landscape. Others produce decorative berries or seed pods that add texture and interest, as well as a terrific food source for winter wildlife. Deciduous shrubs are actually the perfect complement to your evergreen shrubs. Plant a few in the foreground of evergreen trees or shrubs to create layers of colour and texture. Here are five terrific deciduous shrub selections you'll want to include in your landscape:

Colourful Dogwoods

(Cornus species)

Some species of dogwood are known primarily for their showy flowers, but the most cold-hardy species are known for their showy bark. Few plants can match the winter appearance of “red twig" and “yellow twig" dogwoods. The sharp contrast of their colourful upright branches against the snow is one of the most striking scenes in a winter garden, though they also have white flower clusters in spring and purplish berries in summer. There are many named varieties to choose from, most of which are hardy to about -40°C (-40°F).

Elegant Elderberries

(Sambucus species)

Elderberries have a vase-like shape with long cascading branches that billow down towards the ground. Their large dome-shaped cream-coloured flower clusters give way to colourful berries at season's end. The foliage varies depending on the variety—some have chartreuse, or even gold-coloured leaves, while the variety 'Black Lace' has some of the darkest coloured foliage of any plant in the botanical kingdom, which is made even more beautiful by its finely cut form. Most elderberries are hardy to about -40°C (-40°F).

The Nobel Ninebark

(Physocarpus opulifolius)

An often overlooked shrub, ninebark is handsome in all seasons: most varieties leaf out with burgundy foliage in spring, have large snowball-shaped flower clusters in summer, turn fire engine red in fall, and keep the show going in winter with their unusual peeling bark. Some varieties have long pendulous branches or attractive berry clusters. All are known as excellent bird and butterfly habitat. Most ninebarks are hardy to at least -40°C (-40°F).

Rugged Roses

(Rosa rugosa)

Beware of the many roses that are only marginally cold hardy in Canada—and acquaint yourself with the robust roses that thrive in northern climates. One of the most noteworthy is Rosa rugosa, also known as the Ramanas rose. The species comes in red, white, and pink- flowering forms and produces an unusually large fleshy fruit for a rose—the edible rose hip. The species is also highly salt tolerant, which makes it a good choice for edging paved surfaces where salt is used in winter. They are hardy to about

-50°C (-58°F).

Vivid Viburnums

(Viburnum species)

Also referred to as snowball bush or highbush cranberry, depending on the variety, viburnums are among the most reliable shrubs in cold climates. They are upright in form with large rounded flower clusters in summer followed by brilliant red berries—the varieties known as highbush cranberry are edible, making an excellent tart preserve. However, the berries of all viburnums are adored by birds; they can often be found hanging on the bare branches into early winter, making for a late season snack for migrating fowl. Most viburnums are hardy to at least -50°C (-58°F).

Incorporating deciduous shrubs in your planting scheme is a great way to keep your landscape looking fresh and interesting through every season!