Monday, February 20, 2012

10 fantastic shrubs for under $10 each

I am going to continue my series of posts on topics I discuss in my lecturing.  I would love to discuss these garden ideas in person with you, but here is the next best thing!

So one of the most asked question I hear is… “How to landscape on a tight budget?” As you read in my last post, my first answer would be seeds.  But my next one would be long blooming shrubs.  Why, because once shrubs are established for a year or two they are almost guaranteed to look good in your garden.  They are work horses, tough as nails and dependable.  Whether it’s a monsoon style wet spring or drought like no rain summer, these tough shrubs will look and preform fantastic in Midwest Gardens.
Okay, once you venture past the pizazz of the bright colored annuals and oh so tempting new perennials…. step into the woody section of your local garden center!  It is easy to feel intimidated or the very least overwhelmed.  The reason I say this is a shrub is more than likely a lasting part of your home landscape.  Many will last for 20 years or more.  So it is a big decision and with that there are several things to consider…  

-Overall size.
-Bloom times.
-Sun and water requirements.

For this post we will be using selections that are readily available in my zone 6 area for less than $10 for a gallon size plant.  Some of the places I have seen them if you live near me are Lowes, Home Depot, Wal-Mart and my personal favorite…. Rural King.  They normally go on sale for around $6.99 a few times per season and that is when I would stock up.  Here are a few suggestions for long seasons of color from either the blooms or dramatic foliage.  It was hard to limit it to 10, but here is a good start!

1. Altheas or Rose of Sharon
The variety I am showing here is Red Heart Althea.  I have this on two corners of the front of the house and they bloom for at least 2 months.  I can see these thru the dining room window and from the upstairs.  They are bee magnets and such bright clear blooms.
I have trained mine as a standard but they also can be large shrubs for screening.  They are very forgiving and easily trained to a single or multi-trunked small tree reaching only about 12 feet tall.  Some varieties are self seeding, but easily removed or shared with garden friends.  I also grow the magenta double variety called Lucy and the Blue Satin proven winners introduction.  Newer varieties do not self seed, but they are a bit more costly (under $20).  But for this post I will say I love the old fashioned pink and white ones and they are perfect for the cottage/mixed border garden.  Super tough and drought resistant, full sun to part shade.
2. Crepe Myrtles
I live right in the middle of the country and am blessed with the opportunity to grow both Northern and Southern style plants.  And one plant that screams Southern gardens is Crepe Myrtles.  And I am not alone, it seems everyone loves them for there are so many to choose from.  The one I am showing here is called Sioux, but I also grow Centennial Spirit, Rhapsody in Pink and others that I am not sure the names of.  Again they can be maintained as a small tree to large screening shrub…. depending on how much you trim them.  I know of several gardeners that trim them almost to the ground and keep them as less than 3 ft. tall and they do wonderfully.  It is really up to you.  They bloom for such a long time and are so beautiful, I can’t recommend them enough.
3. Spireas
Looking for a shrub that will be tough as nails and not get too big and out of control?  Take home a spirea and enjoy it for years.  This is one that is seen every year at my local garden centers, “Anthony Waterer”.  But I also grow and enjoy Neon and Goldflame which turns a lovely fall color adding addition interest. 
I almost treat mine like a perennial and cut it way back after blooming and it will rebloom in about a month.  It also makes it fuller and more health looking.  I have them out by the mailbox with no irrigation and they do fantastic. 
4. Big Leaf Hydrangeas
If you have read my blog for any amount of time, you know I have never met a hydrangea that I didn’t love.  But there are so many old favorites that can be added to your garden for next to nothing.  Remember these lovely old-fashioned beauties change color depending on your sold type.  For me they will bloom pink every year, that being said let me suggest the variety Nikko Blue.
It starts out a lovely light green, then a creamy yellow then huge pink balls.  I have several varieties that cost so much more, but Nikko Blue always gets ooooohhhs and awwweees and you too can have it for a very reasonable price.  Remember sometimes the classics are just better, you can’t beat these long lasting bloomers.  This one is shade and does need watering, but beside that is pest and worry-free.
5. Butterfly Bushes
When I designed my butterfly hill I knew one plant that just had to be included.  A Butterfly Bush of course!  But they are a good choice for any style garden, but they do need a bit of care.  This is when you need a bit of tough love, 2-3 times per year cut them WAY back.  Like early June and late August…  when the blooms start to look more brownish than your color, cut them back. 
They are not suppose to look like trees, but to be about 4-5 feet tall and lush. I could spend hours watching things flutter around them, so plant them near a garden bench if you can!
6. Weilgelas
You often see me post pictures of my weigela shrubs but today we are going to showcase “Wine and Roses”.  It is a relatively recently introduced variety but has spread like wildfire thru the gardening world for good reason.  It should be grown for its healthy burgundy foliage alone, but the the pink blooms are delightful.
Picture 029
Easy to maintain, disease resistant….  It could be used in so many different areas of the garden your choices are endless.  I grow several including variegated leaved ones, red and white blooming varieties as well.  But the Wine and Roses has the dark foliage that I believe you would really enjoy.  Blooms heavily in Spring and reblooms a few times during the summer, but not as many as the first flush.
7. Flowering Almond
Spring flowering shrubs are so welcomed in the garden when we are longing for color.  I walked on into the garden today and noticed this one with swelling buds.  As most blooming plants, they will only be offered in bloom so you look for this plant to be in stores in a few weeks time. I just love the little pink puffs.  After blooming it just kind of blends into the other plants, but it is not an unattractive plant.  It’s size is manageable and it is well worthy of your investment.
8. Viburnums
Oh I love the smell of Viburnums!  The one you see for less than $10 around here is Mohawk.  It has a lovely scent that can be noticed from a distance away.  The buds go from creamy-peach, to pink… opening to a pure white.  It just blooms in the spring, but it is a nice looking shrub all year round.  This one does not set berries for me, but spend a few dollars more and other varieties have red, blue or black berries in the fall and winter for more seasonal interest. 
9. Smokebush
If you enjoy interesting shaped leaves and dramatic color, smokebush is for you.  This variety is called Royal Purple, but there is also a bright chartreuse green one as well.  It does “bloom” to look like smoke, but I grow it for the color.  It too can take some heavy pruning to keep small, so I would give it plenty of room and enjoy it’s unique habit. I also enjoy taking cuttings and using these in arrangements as filler.  
10. Lilacs
Okay, I will admit that lilacs can be a bit big and messy, but I just cannot imagine a spring garden without one or two or ten!  This is my favorite, “Sensation” and you can easily see why.  It has this lovely white edging on its petals.  I have mine trained as standards to they don’t take up room in the garden.  I will talk more about this in an upcoming post.  I grow several varieties including Miss Kim, Bloomerang, James MacFarlane, Beauty of Moscow and Ludwig Spaeth.

Also on my list that might be a bit more of an investment than $10 are Heavenly Bamboo, French Pussywillow, Sand Cherry, Abelia, Beautyberry, Flowering Plum, Elderberry, Ninebark, Summersweet and Japanese Willows.  I grow all of these and enjoy them.

I hope I have given you some ideas of how to stretch your gardening budget and make a long lasting season of interest in your home landscape.  Thanks so much for visiting and please consider becoming a follower!

Happy Gardening….Brooke
All photos of my own home and garden ©Brooke Kroeger – Creative Country Mom


  1. Brooke - You have selected some very nice shrubs. I like the weigelia, Wine and Roses, but I've killed too many flowering almond shrubs. Nice descriptions and great photos. thanks for sharing. c

  2. A lot of my faves in there...especially Buddliea. They are great for Butterflies and so easy to propogate.

  3. When I will have the possibility of building a garden, Hydrangeas are a MUST!! My Mum and both Grandparents have them in the garden and where my boyfriend lives in the UK, almost every garden has them too. They are amazing plants!


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