Gardening: Get color and texture with shrubs

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News
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Contrast, color and texture are all key elements in a successful landscape or garden design. However, you don’t have to depend on high-maintenance flowering annuals and perennials to produce them.

Bush Honeysuckles (Diervilla) ‘Kodiak Black’ and ‘Kodiak Orange’ are two colorful shrubs you might consider for use as a landscape plantings or additions to a mixed border – one that includes shrubs as well as perennials and annual plantings. These Proven Winners nativars (cultivars of a native species), have a lot going for them besides color.

‘Kodiak Black’ sports purple-black leaves that contrast beautifully with their delicate yellow blooms that appear in summer and the leaves turn flaming red in fall. Its deep, dark-colored foliage makes a fabulous backdrop for other bloomers in the summer garden, maturing to just 36 to 48 inches, needing little to no pruning. It’s drought tolerant once established and though it does best in full sun, it’s shade tolerant and a candidate for a dry shade garden. The ‘Kodiak’ series of Diervillas are also deer resistant, however beneficial insects and hummers love them.

Diervilla ‘Kodiac Orange’ is a head turner that produces brilliant orange-red leaves on new growth that’s a real dazzler in spring when color is hard to come by, and ages to green as it matures. It, too, sports delicate yellow flowers from July through August. The final act in fall is a vibrant blaze of red and orange foliage. ‘Kodiac Orange’ also matures to 3 to 4 feet in height.

Both of these shrubs are hardy to zone 4 and are considered tough as nails.

Another nativar with dramatic dark bronze to maroon foliage is the Proven Winners Ninebark (Physocarpus) ‘Tiny Wine.’ It’s a real stunner when it bursts into bloom with hundreds of tiny delicate pinkish pompom clusters in spring. Unlike other ninebarks that burgeon to 6 to 8 feet or more in height, ‘Tiny Wine’ tops out at a manageable 3 to 4 feet. It’s distinct upright growth habit is best left unpruned so place it in full sun that will accommodate a spread of 4 to 5 feet in width.

Timely tips: Drought-tolerant plants need to be kept watered like any other newly planted plant until their roots become well established.

Colorful Ninebarks and Diervillas are great for use in cut flower arrangements. Once established, you can remove up to a third of their branches without harming the shrubs. To keep their shape, cut the branches from the base of the shrubs.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at

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