Favorite flowering shrub

token28001(zone7b NC)August 22, 2008

I need some infill plants for the back yard. I've got plenty of room, one side full sun, the other side mostly shady. The soil is acidic, clay held together with stones and rocks. However, the areas I am working in have been covered for years with fallen leaves and other organic matter. The dirt looks really good about 1' down and I can amend as needed.

So, what I want are shrubs that will grow in the Zone 7 part of NC with little maintenance and care once established. I will have a few perennial beds scattered throughout. I just need the shrubs. I'd like to choose things that flower or have a great smell for different seasons.

Right now I have Forsythia, azaleas, Tea Olive (smell to die for), August Beauty Gardenia (just finished reading the thread on Gardenia Suicide), Wine & Roses Weigela, Sweet Shrub, and euyonomus for evergreen color (variegated and solid). I just purchased a pink poppet weigela and plan to put it back there. It was a clearance item. I can get more. :) )

There is a groundcover mix of Ivy, periwinkle, and some thorny vine that even roundup won't kill. The rest if pretty much leaf cover and stumps.

The trees back there are Southern Magnolias (spaced evenly throughout in the 1950s), White Dog woods (left corner in full sun), and very old oaks (all throughout). There is one Red Crape Myrtle in the center of the arc I'm trying to encircle. There is also one Eastern Redbud just to the left of it. I will be trying to propagate lavender/light pink crape myrtles, Eastern Redbud, Golden Rain Tree, and some Japanese Maple to fill in some gaps in the trees. If all else fails, I will purchase more mature ones.

With all that, what are some good flowering or fragrant shrubs that I can use in this area? It's about 150' of tree line that I want to create a natural boundary around.

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Winter daphne. Fragrant in January-March for me. Plant it high and dry like on a volcano mound! Seriously. Then, don't overwater or over fertilize it. Mine was so laden with blooms this year that I had to shape it so that it wouldn't split. They cannot take direct sun. I had one that was partial sun and it got toasted in the drought. The one on the shady side of the sweet bay magnolia is fabulous.

Osmanthus fragrans is another favorite, but you already have it.

Illicium might be another for you. The deer may eat the leaves in winter if food gets scarce, but it comes back.

My heptacodium is just now starting to bloom. I'm pruning mine up in a single trunk so the deer won't pick all the buds. It's fast-growing and can be the size of a small tree (15 feet).

Kleim's Hardy gardenia is a favorite. I lost some August Beauty gardenias from partial sun, too. Again, the one in the shade is flourishing and blooming great.

Consider adding some ginger. Although not a shrub, it will give you fall fragrance. I have white butterfly and it overwinters fine against the east side of my house. Morning sun, moist soil.

If you can handle a vine, I love my Confederate Jasmine. It's beside my ginger on the east side with morning sun and moist soil.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 10:18PM
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Fragrant: Calycanthus floridus 'Michael Lindsey' or 'Athens'
Also, many native azaleas such as Rhododendron canescens (called "wild honeysuckle" by oldtimers), and Clethra alnifolia (common name is Summersweet).

Flowering but not known for fragrance: Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides - nice flowers, attractive berries and good fall color; it's cousin Viburnum nudum is also nice as is Viburnum acerifolium. Plumleaf azalea is a last summer flowering azalea that is a deep red, very nice. Fothergilla has unique bottlebrush flowers and good fall color. Sambucus 'Black Lace' and Physocarpus 'Summer Wine' have deep colored burgundy foliage.

Nice foliage and deer resistant: Agarista populifolia (cute bell flowers in summer, evergreen). Leucothoe axillaris is similar but it blooms in the spring.

These are all natives.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 9:49PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Calycanthus 'Athens', to my nose, has little or no scent. I think it was selected for the yellow flower color, compared to the normal reddish-brown color. It's flowering now. Some Calycanthus have a lot of fragrance and some have little to none, so pick a named cultivar with fragrance, or pick one in bloom, if that is important to you.

The above natives are all nice - Clethra, some of the native azaleas, Itea viginica (small-growing [to 4' but can get to 8-10' depending on cultivar], white flower spikes, good fall color), Calycanthus are especially nice because they all flower in summer, some early and some late. Itea is also fragrant.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 8:30AM
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Although not fragrant Oakleaf Hydrangea, American Beautyberry, Bottlebrush Buckeye and Native Fringe Tree would be good choices for a natural transition area.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 8:59AM
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I love winter honeysuckle and Confederate Jasmine

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 12:02PM
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My calycanthus 'Athens' smells delicious...somewhere between cantaloupe and Juicy Fruit bubble gum. Its fragrance wafts for several yards in the late spring. I love these shrubs, but dibbit is right--they vary from plant to plant, so select one while it's in bloom to ensure you get good fragrance.

You could also try some of the heat-resistant lilac varieties that smell like heaven when they bloom. But there's been mixed success here in the south with them, it seems, both for hardiness and fragrance.

One I haven't tried that I want to is michelia figo, banana shrub. Supposed to have wonderful fragrance and be shrubby or tree-like. Also an evergreen.

I have a harlequin glorybower (clerodendron) that is blooming now, with pretty good fragrance. It can be shrubby or tree-like as well. it's supposed to be a butterfly magnet, and I'm hoping my hummers might like it too, although I'm not overly confident about that. Deciduous and a little gangly in appearance, but the late summer/fall blooming time for the fragrance makes it worth it.

My last thought is blueberry bushes...spring blooms, summer fruit, fall color, and interesting winter forms. Pretty low maintenance once established if you have acidic soil and good drainage. And they'll produce more blueberries than you can eat...which is fine, because the birds love them too! Good luck on whatever you choose...sounds like a nice setting.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 3:06PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

Wow. I just picked up the Southern Living Gardening book for the Southeast. I'm going to go through it and identify a lot of these plants. I have other things growing back there as well, I just haven't named/identified many of them yet.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 5:10PM
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rootdiggernc(Z-7A NC)

Miss Kim (lilac) has been incredibly easy. Keeps a nice shape without pruning and every year gets bigger and better.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 2:05PM
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Do you do anything special to Miss Kim? (sometimes I call her 'Lil Kim by mistake! a rappin' lilac!) What are her requirements? Hailing from the North, I really miss lilacs. Is the fragrance the same as her northern relatives?

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 5:54PM
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For fragrance, my favorite flowering shrub is Viburnum burkwoodii. Nature's perfume when it blooms, typically early April around here. It can get pretty large (20'), so it's good to tuck in the back as a screen.

I'm a big fan of oakleaf hydrangeas, loropetalums, doublefile viburnums. Except for the deer issue with hydrangeas in general, all these shrubs are pretty carefree and will take sun to shade. I like Illiciums for shadier areas, but I've found that they absolutely need irrigation in droughty years.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 5:56PM
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irislover_nc(z7 nc)

I see that others beat me to it but I LOVE oakleaf hydrangea. I have had mine for 9 years. I have moved them, rooted cuttings, neglected, and overloved them and they look magnificent.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 12:28PM
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How about Little King River Birch? I know it doesn't flower, but it's winter bark more than makes up for the negative, and you can always try growing a flowering clematis through to the top. Little King grows into a 10'*10' dome of green in the summer, then reveals it's true ornamental quality after leaf drop.
Also look into witchhazels, (Hamamelis mollis.) I have a couple of them and they are great for winter/early spring interest. Add to that that the newer cultivars have fantastic fall foliage. I grow 'Pallida,' which has bright yellow flowers and fall foliage, 'Diane' has coppery red flowers and red-yellow fall foliage. 'Jelena,' from which came 'Diane,' has a blended flower color of red base to yellow tail. It's fall foliage is spectacular. I did lose one of my witch hazels this year, I think it was the 'Diane' but don't let that dissuade you, it had had a horrible year in 2007, with the drought, then survived a move to SC from NC, but somewhere along the line was attacked by some boreing insect. I do not blame 'Diane' I mourn her.
Your border is the perfect place to lump all of those onesy shrubs from the markdown booths at nurseries. I had collected scores of shrubs from hollies to cotoneasters that I'd never known what to do with, but couldn't pass up the deals, and when I moved down to SC I had a wooded border in front of which I deposited all the shrubs that I had painstakingly brought down from NC. Now there is a great mix of hydrangeas, cotoneaster, nandina, and even St. John's wort.
Good luck,

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 5:22PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

Lets see, some thing I have identified from the names of plants you guys have mentioned.


Calycanthus floridus - collected seeds from a neighbor's yard. I loved the plant this spring.

There are nandinas on the shadier side of the yard too. I whacked them down last winter. They were about 5' tall and very leggy. They came back this year with a vengence. Which is good.

I've got American Beautyberry too. I thought it was a weed. I kept chopping them down. I'll stop. :)

Confederate Jasmine is on the trellis I built to hold my hammock back there. Going to plant some pennyroyal in pots around it next year to try to keep the mosquitoes down.

There are daffodils all through the woods back there. I guess a previous owner put them in. They all bloomed this spring. It was beautiful.

River birch is one I've looked at lately. I like it a lot. I didn't know if it would do well in the rocky soil.

Oakleaf hydrangea is on several lists. I guess I should go check that out at a nursery.

Thanks again. I'm hoping this area can be very low maintenance.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 6:57PM
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By far the most fragrant shrub in mass is eleagnus. evergreen and the tuffest one. I dare you to try kill it. Don't use species type like planted along interstates,spreads,arches,thorns. The fragrance in October can be detected hundreds of feet away,like gardenia, for a month. Any named variety ok, fruitland-is upright, ebbingii is med/smaller.Flowers aren't showy.
Also,viburnum carlesii [koreanspice], judd viburnum,burkwood viburnum,and burkwood var. 'Mohawk'. Mohawk blooms for weeks instead of days like these others.
I have a new gardenia 'Shining Star' which has been very hardy,single flowers,long narrow leaves, but grows taller than any at 8 ft max. For length of bloom time tea olive, osmanthus fragrans has bloomed every month for me except july, heaviest in spring/fall.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 12:26AM
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jeffahayes(8a Upstate SC)

The winter honeysuckle IS very nice. It's listed by the U.S. Forest Service (among others) as an exotic invasive plant of Southern Forests, but I've had one growing in a sort of forested area in my back yard for many years, and I've YET to see a single volunteer spread up around it, so I'm not sure how much of a threat it is... The scientific name is Lonicera fragrantisima. They bloom from as early as Thanksgiving to as late as March, with white or yellow honeysuckle-looking blooms on a shrub that grows to 10 feet or so and have a wonderfully sweet, rather powerful, sort of citrus smell that can catch the nose from many feet away... In full sun, they may completely defoliate in winter and bloom with no leaves at all; mine gets only partial sun, and blooms with most of its leaves still on (it never loses all its leaves), so the blooms are difficult to see at a distance, but you sure can smell them)

Another shrub that blooms prolifically once established in January and February with small yellow flowers is Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum). It truly DOES bloom when there are no leaves, and even when it's REALLY BIG, the height tops out at about 4 feet because it has relatively thin stems which tend to grow in an arch and end up back on the ground... The really NEAT THING about that is that every stem that touches the ground on any soil with the least bit of looseness and fertility WILL ROOT and sprout a NEW plant, and thus the shrub continues to spread and branch out into an ever-bigger shrub... I got mine by digging out a few of those new shoots from the back of a HUGE one at Hatcher Garden (with their horticulurist's permission a few years ago, as I'm a volunteer there). It was early March and I left it out, bare-root, on my patio for about three weeks for about three weeks before planting it, with NO WATER, and it STILL LIVED... Took it a couple years to start growing well, but this past year it really took off and I should have a sizeble shrub in another year or two.

There are LOTS of other choices, but you can really find what suits you best by doing a search best suited to your needs, and I have a GREAT new website put together by the S.C. Native Plant Society to link you to below that should REALLY HELP. You can search for plants there by a lot of different parameters, including color, bloom color, season of bloom, etc., and while the website's database is FAR from comprehensive, most of the plants it does have include pictures -- many shot locally and including shots taken at various times off the year.

Best of luck and Happy Plantings!

Here is a link that might be useful: NameThatPlant: Native Plants of the Carolinas

    Bookmark   September 21, 2008 at 3:44AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

My favorites are mock orange, knockout roses, camellias and encore azaleas.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 3:46PM
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My Encore Azaleas are in bloom
KO Roses are blooming again
Osmanthus fragrans flowers are so fragrant right now, it's fantastic!

Heptacodium flowered, but deer ate lowers; wind knocked off the upper flowers.

Cestrum 'Orange Peel' is still a baby, but is blooming. It's a perennial, but gets shrub sized here.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 7:43PM
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You can't have enough beauty berrys (which you have already mentioned). There are white ones and the usual purple/lavendar but also a new light pink berry (Welch).

Have you heard of the new dwarf butterfly bush (Buddleia 'Blue chip'). It was developed by Dr. Werner at the Raulston Arboretum and only grows 2 x 2. Nice blue flowers like the regular Buddleia flower. It is a brand new plant and not too many nurseries had it this season. In Spring of 2009 it will be more available. Nice low plant with a lot of color. Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2008 at 3:44PM
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jqpublic(7b/8a Wake County NC)

I love osmanthus fragrans as well!

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 11:33PM
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