May 29, 2013

Shrubs With Feathery Foliage

I was calling this the seventy shrub spring - enjoying the alliteration - but we've planted over eighty by now.  Included in that number are some with feathery leaves that sway in the breeze and add movement to the view, even when birds and butterflies aren't around.  Above is a shot of newly emerging leaves on one of the two 'Sutherland Gold' elderberries (Sambucus, 6-10' tall/wide, full or partial sun) we planted by the swing set.  You can see the new foliage is copper before it brightens to gold. 

I also found room for a 'Black Lace' elderberry (Sambucus, 6-8' tall/wide, full sun), which fits its name well.  Finely dissected new leaves are greenish before darkening to almost black.  The color is darkest with sull sun and stays more green in partial shade.

In addition to the showy leaves, this shrub makes pinkish flower heads in spring that ripen into berries later in the year. 

'Fine Line' buckthorn (Rhamnus, 5-7' tall, 2-3' wide, full sun) is a newer introduction from Monrovia.  It's such an interesting shrub.  Here are the emerging leaves . . .

 . . . and here is what it looks like right now, a month later.  This shrub is supposed to turn showy gold in fall before loosing its leaves.  I suspect it's one of those super-sturdy, drought-tolerant, hard-to-kill shrubs that make life easier for gardeners.  This cultivar doesn't reseed and become invasive like its relatives.

Other gardeners rave about 'Ogon' Spirea (3-5' tall/wide, full sun), even though it gets leggy after a few years and needs to be sheared back occasionally.  So I made room for three on the east side of the home.  Its bright lime-gold leaves brighten the area, and its leaves are supposed to hang on for a long time in the fall before it goes dormant for winter.  Small white flowers bloom in early spring before it leafs out.

We also planted a dwarf Arctic willow (Salix 'Nana', 5-7' tall/wide, full sun).  'We' meaning I picked it out and bought it, then my husband pickaxed a hole in the rocky soil.  Thanks honey.  Its blue-green leaves will provide a contrast in texture to the giant leaves of an 'Empress Wu' hosta planted nearby, and it can be sheared back annually to produce new branches that hold their maroon coloring through the winter. 
After spending many, many hours researching shrubs to find the best ones for my garden, I'm planning to write more about the ones I picked.  Stay tuned for posts about viburnums, hydrangeas and a few others. 


  1. HI VW,

    I would suggest a nice small Acer Palmatum 'Garnet' to you which has deeply cut feathery leaves too - grows only to 2/3feet but I don't know how it'd cope in your winters or if your garden is windy. It has amazing colour - firey red and makes a wonderful small feature.

    Your Buckthorn looks really interesting! Will have to see if it's available here.

    1. Liz, I had this gorgeous green lace leaf Japanese maple for a couple of years and then one of our winters killed it off. Now I'm gun shy about them, especially since they're waaay expensive. I love your A. palmatum photos. Maybe if I find one hardy to zone 4 I'll try it.

  2. I've wanted the sambucus, but just down't have the right spot for it. Your shrubs look wonderful. Love the textures.

  3. 70, 80, 100...who's counting?

    Hey I just bought a Buckthorn 'Fine Line' today...nice to see the image of the new foliage!

  4. So pretty. I adore your Black Laced elderberry. The foliage along with the pink blooms go so well together.

    My blog address has changed to:

  5. Hello VW .. I had to stop by and say I have Sutherland Gold and Black Lace plus Morden Glow elderberry, which is a cut leaf and gorgeous too!
    I am really interested in Fine Line buckthorn and wish I could find it here because I love its structure so much. I guess I just have to be patient and hope it comes to Canada some year ? haha

  6. Hi there, I have been looking around online to try to figure out what this shrub, small tree, is that I saw in a garde recently. I thought it was asparagus at first because of the very soft fine feathery foliage. At closer look it is woody, and had a few purple blooms left (very small spikes of blooms). Can I send someone a picture? Thanks

    1. Gillian, where did you see this shrub? I might be able to identify it if it's a zone 5 shrub, but I am not familiar with all the endless shrubs that will grow in milder climates. You can email a photo to me at mama woolley at yahoo dot com, no spaces.


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