Sample garden design: sun shrub garden

When presented with a large garden space, planting with shrubs is the best way to fill in space quickly and with minimal work.

Selecting large shrubs for large gardens, and medium– or smaller–sized shrubs for respectively sized gardens will keep gardens looking proportionate and prevent time–consuming pruning work. When buying shrubs, make your choice based on the shrub’s size when fully grown, rather than the size when you buy it.

 Plants used in this design

Spring interest

  • Amelanchier species, serviceberry
  • Cercis canadensis, eastern redbud
  • Viburnum trilobum, highbush cranberry

Summer interest

  • Caryopteris species, bluebeard
  • Physocarpus species, ninebark
  • Sambucus species, Elderberry

Fall interest

  • Weigela species., Wiegela
  • Hypericum species, St. Johns wort
  • Buddleia species, butterfly bush
  • Hamamelis virginiana, witch hazel

Winter interest

  • Cornus sericea, red osier dogwood
  • Juniperus horizontalis, creeping juniper
  • Ilex verticillata, winterberry


At least six hours of direct sunlight.


Shrubs generally adapt well to many soil types, making soil conditions less of a concern. However, the addition of 5 centimetres (2 inches) of organic material (e.g. manure, compost, leaf mold) every two years will help create a rich, nutritious soil, and eliminate the need to fertilize.


For the first few weeks after your new garden is planted, check to see if the soil is wet to a depth of at least 2.5 centimetres (1 inch), even if it rains, and water as needed. Continue watering new plants as needed until the roots are well established (one to two seasons). Mulch will help increase moisture retention for long periods of time, and will help curb soil erosion. Adding of 5-10 centimetres (2-4 inch) of mulch every few years will help reduce watering needs.

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