Shrubs and perennials: Creating backbone and heart in the garden

Low-maintenance Euphorbia griffithii, or Fireglow, sets the spring landscape ablaze for weeks. This perennial is also reliable, easy to propagate, and ignored by deer. (Contributed)

Loretta Fritz | Contributed

Shrubs are woody plants that, along with trees, create an architectural backbone for any garden.

Because their above-ground parts persist over the winter, they provide a more-or-less fixed structure year round. The beautiful and ubiquitous rhododendron is perhaps the quintessential shrub in our area, offering just one more reason to love spring.

Herbaceous perennials, on the other hand, are non-woody plants that are often used to fill open spaces. Their above-ground parts die to the ground each winter, in effect “erasing” them from the landscape until they re-sprout from the roots in spring. Familiar examples include peonies, coneflowers, fall asters, hostas, delphinium, and many others.

With good planning, gardeners can select shrubs and perennials that not only beautify their outdoor space, but also serve a particular function – creating privacy, attracting pollinators, accentuating a colour scheme, ensuring year-round landscape interest, and so on.

It’s true that annuals fulfill many of these same functions, with the added benefit of summer-long colour and flower power. But when the season is over, annuals die; they need to be removed and replaced with new plants year after year. In large gardens, relying mainly on annuals can be a labour-intensive and expensive cycle.

Let’s face it, nothing that we intentionally grow in the garden is maintenance free, but some plants are much easier to look after than others. So it’s important to choose wisely and make sure that whatever we choose suits the conditions we have. The mantra “right plant, right place” comes readily to mind. Successful gardening, alas, depends on meeting a plant’s needs, not our own. This I know from personal experience: Wishing doesn’t make it so.

Fortunately, the world of shrubs and perennials is vast and offers a plethora of worthwhile choices. At this month’s meeting of the Sooke Garden Club, Diane Pierce will take us into this world, focusing primarily on plants that look particularly attractive in May and bring special features to our gardens. She will also talk about specific garden conditions and challenges such as dry shade, drought tolerance, and pruning.

Diane Pierce has worked as gardener, landscape designer and consultant. She currently teaches and volunteers at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific.

Join us on Wednesday, May 22, 7 p.m., at St. Rose of Lima Church on Townsend Road. A parlour show is also featured. New members are welcome. Questions? Visit our website at or email us at


Loretta Fritz writes for the Sooke Garden Club.

Just Posted

Sooke’s First Nations have Iroquois links

References to the proud Iroquois race tend to make one think of… Continue reading

Police-run Youth for Change and Inclusion camp bids fond farewell to tireless directors

Founder Sgt. Paul Brookes has run camp empowering youth and creating leaders for 16 years

Canadians not afraid to take the plunge for the second time

Most will wait almost five years before remarrying

John Cleese sets fall date for Victoria return

June show sold out, comedic actor returns Nov. 4

Famed Syrian artist displays paintings created while living in refugee camps

Farid Abdulbaki’s ‘Between Two Worlds’ exhibit will be displayed May 24-26 in Victoria

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

The father and two youngesters fell down a steep and treachorous cliff while hiking on Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

B.C. ferry stops to let black bear swim past near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Most Read