Five bomb-proof bushes

Autumn is the perfect time to plant trees and shrubs. Here are five easy to grow, low maintenance shrubs from plantsman, Graham Rice.

Weigela florida 'Variegata'
Weigela florida 'Variegata' Image: AndyMcIndoe
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Some shrubs are not only colourful but really will put up with almost anything – unless you set fire to them or run over them with the car. These five shrubs are tough as old boots. Water the pots before you plant them and water again after you’ve planted them and every week for a month or two after that. Bingo.

Barberry (Berberis)

Berberis
Berberis. Image: Fotolia/viktoria17

This is the plant to put in to stop the postman cutting across the comer of your flowerbed. All barberries are spiny (think twice if you have toddlers) and all the deciduous ones are tough as anything. They have dainty yellow flowers but it’s their small purple or golden or patterned leaves that turn fiery in autumn that give you the colour. And, in the autumn, there’s also the red berries the birds love.

They come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes from small rounded balls to upright pillars to big bushes – just check the label before you buy to be sure you get what you need.

Grows to around 30cm-2m.

Flowering currant (Ribes)

Ribes
Ribes. Image: Suttons Seeds

Here’s a stout and distinctive flowering shrub with strong branches that will simply regrow if they get broken. This adaptable, leave-it-to-get-on-with-it deciduous bush flowers in the spring and the dangling clusters of red, pink or white flowers swing in the breeze amongst the fresh new leaves and are a magnet for bees. The unopened buds at the tips are always a few shades darker which adds to the appeal. There are even a few with prettily speckled foliage.

If it gets too big, cut it back soon after flowering. The flowering currant is related to the blackcurrant – but I wouldn’t advise tasting the berries.

Grows to around 1.8-2.4m.

Forsythia (Forsythia)

Forsythia
Forsythia. Image: Suttons Seeds

The early flowering shrub that everyone knows, its sunny yellow flowers line the branches for a few dazzling weeks. This is another bush that springs back to life after calamities. In fact, if you cut off bare shoots and stick them in the ground they’ll usually make roots before long and start to grow.

All forsythias used to grow quite large, they’d make plants that could easily grow too big for their spaces. But now there are some more compact types, that never grow more than about 1m tall with flowers crammed even more tightly along the shoots. The label will tell you the eventual size, so check before you buy.

Grows to around 1-3m.

Shrub rose (Rosa)

Rosa 'Queen of Denmark'
Rosa ‘Queen of Denmark’. Image: David Austin Roses

They may be gorgeous, but some roses are fussy, easily get diseased, and demand rich soil and regular pruning. Not these. The old heirloom shrub roses that have been around for a hundred years or more are much more tough and resilient – that’s why they’re still with us after all this time. And they’re some of the most gorgeous flowers you can grow.

The flowers tend to come in a crazy June explosion, their colours are amazing, their scent is stupendous. Some will continue blooming into the autumn, many also have attractive rose hips later in the season. What more can you ask for?

Grows to around 1.2-2.5m.

Weigela (Weigela)

Weigela florida 'Variegata'
Weigela florida ‘Variegata’ Image: AndyMcIndoe

It may have an odd sort of name, but this is a great plant. Another toughie, the trumpet shaped flowers line the branches in early summer and come in reds, pinks and white.

These are plants that have always been valued more than admired but many now also have the huge bonus of brightly golden patterned leaves which light up the garden from spring to autumn or wine red leaves to create a sultry effect for many spring and summer months. You’ll spot them the garden centre and they’ll stand out in your garden. And we’re now just seeing the first varieties that flower right through the summer.

Grows to around 1.2-2m.

Graham Rice

About Graham Rice

Graham Rice is an award-winning garden writer and blogger with
special interests in perennials, annuals and container plants, and
choosing plants for specific garden situations. His blog Transatlantic
Gardener
was awarded Garden Blog Of The Year in 2014 and his
Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Perennials was awarded
Garden Book of The Year.
View all posts by Graham.