Four Season Garden Shrubs Landscape Designers Use

Guest blogger: Cinthia Milner, Transplanted and Still Blooming

More and more homeowners aren’t content with garden shrubs that bloom once a year. Therefore, no matter how spectacular the show (azaleas in spring, crape myrtles in summer), that one-time-scene-stopping performance just doesn’t cut it for today’s savvy homeowners. Understandably, they’re looking for year-round landscape interest, something in the garden that catches the eye in spring, summer, fall, and winter. And why not? If we take a closer look, we’ll see what horticulturists already know: Luckily, many garden shrubs fit that bill. In the landscape industry, these are considered four-season interest plants. Read below for my top five picks as we move into fall, the perfect time to plant.

Four Season Garden Shrubs for your Landscape

  1. Fothergilla’ Mount Airy’ This 4-5′ tall and wide shrub is often overlooked, but it is worth a spot in the landscape for the fall color alone. Multi-colored leaves in fall—
    fothergilla-four season interest-garden design

    Fothergilla’s leaves are a delight in the fall, coloring up the landscape.

    orange, red, and purple!—are spectacular. The shrub has a grand, upright habit and tight structure; hence, the branches don’t break easily (for you snow bunnies). This zone 5-8 shrub has white bottlebrush blooms in April-May that are showy and fragrant. Additionally, it makes an excellent hedge, is easily pruned (use your Felco clippers), has attractive summer foliage, and has little disease or pest. In winter, it is deciduous, but the architecture of the plant leaves other leafless shrubs looking boring. Plant in the sun to part-shade, not dense shade; it does need the sun to bloom.

  2. Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima,’ a red twig dogwood that grows 6-10′ tall and wide. The variegated leaves give it interest all growing season, but the best part about this garden shrub is not the showy white blooms (May-June bloom period) or the white berries tinged with blue, but the red twigs that
    Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'

    Red-twig dogwood branches make great additions to holiday decorations with their red branches.

    are a stand out in winter. Meanwhile, after the leaves have fallen off, the brilliant red of these twigs will make you want winter snow just to see the contrast. Plant in full sun for better color on the red twigs. Also, these shrubs look great on a berm in front of the house among deciduous trees where they can shine all winter.

  3. Encore Azaleas, these broadleaf evergreen shrubs provide the first thing every homeowner needs year-round—evergreen. Winter landscapes need some green all year, and why not an evergreen that blooms twice a year? Spring and fall, these 4 ½’ tall and wide azaleas bloom gloriously, and the best part? They take full sun, unlike most azaleas. In Zones 6b to 10, you do need to consider elevation if you’re high on a mountaintop. Visit the Plant Zone Hardiness map to learn your zone.

    azalea-gardening-spring gardening-four season interest

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  4. Itea virginica:’Little Henry’ a native to our Eastern seaboard. This shrub hails better than Burning Bush for fall color. That’s high praise, but add to that the fact that Virginia sweetspire (common name) is a native and so not invasive like burning bush, and what’s not to love? This shrub gets 3-5′ tall and 5-6′ wide and produces beautiful drooping racemes that cover the shrub in May-June. A very showy and fragrant plant, the fall color is garnet, and leaves hold on sometimes until December. Planted in mass, the architecture of these shrubs together creates winter interest and bird habitat.

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5. Viburnum, there are so many to choose from, so pick your favorite. Visit your local nursery and decide if Double File, Conoy, or Korean Spice Bush is your choice. Viburnums can be evergreen or deciduous, but one thing they all are is showy come spring with their white blooms, either lacecap style laterally along the stems or snowballs at the ends of the terminals. In the fall, they produce berries that are showy and colorful. Blue Muffin has, you guessed it, blueberries, and Cardinal Candy has significant clusters of showy red berries. Viburnums can be small, 6-10 feet tall, or broad, up to 20′ tall. There is one for every landscape, and every landscape needs one.


Viburnum shows off in the fall with its colorful leaves and berries.


Hire Landscaping Near Me

Where will these plants work in your yard? Call Offshoot Virtual Landscape Services to set up an appointment and discuss with you the optimum locations for these plants to make four seasons of interest in your garden. We will look at your overall space and make low-maintenance suggestions! Visuals are always displayed during your individual presentation, and each plant is explained in detail. Nothing is left to wonder, so you are comfortable and love the overall look before planting. If you need a landscape designer in Hendersonville, Flat Rock, Asheville, Fletcher, Arden, or Brevard areas of Western North Carolina, call 828-699.8022 for an appointment today!



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