Shrubs form the ornamental and structural backbone of most gardens. With their woody habit they provide a permanent, ever-developing framework around which plantings of herbaceous perennials, annuals and bulbs can be planned. There is great diversity among garden shrubs which means there are candidates for every situation. Evergreen choices provide foliar interest year-round and are especially useful in winter, while deciduous shrubs often display dramatic autumn tones before leaf fall. Many are also especially lush and colourful in spring as new shoots emerge.
Some shrubs have dazzling displays of flowers which, depending on your choice, can grace the garden in any season, while others are grown for showy displays of fruit, most often in autumn. Larger-growing shrubs may be legged-up (lower branches removed) to create tree-like forms below which perennials can be planted, or even used as hosts for climbing plants. Some will thrive best trained against a wall or a fence, others look spectacular in the open or in mixed borders; shade-loving shrubs may flourish as an understorey below trees. A few will take well to clipping to add a formal touch, perhaps contrasting with more free-growing plants, and these can be used as living design features. If versatility is important, there is a range of shrubs for pots. Use garden shrubs to create an informal boundary or to hide an unsightly view, and remember that these are among the best plants for providing habitats for wildlife.