Each season brings its own distinct fragrances, colours and blooms. The Jardin botanique de Montréal’s abundant collection of shrubs helps create a sensory experience for all visitors. Two gardens in particular are full of sensational shrubs—the Shrub Garden or Fructicetum and the Leslie Hancock Garden. What is so fascinating about these woody plants is that they offer interesting textures, forms, colours and scents, at different times, throughout the year!
Shrubs Keep a Garden Interesting, All Year Long
Unlike annuals or perennials that die back in the autumn, some shrubs can look their best in the winter when everything else is dormant. Exfoliating bark, red berries or evergreen foliage, all these components are crucial to a winter garden. While some shrubs may fade into the background or be outshined by floriferous plants in the summer, they take center stage in the fall and the winter. These seasons would not be the same without such reliable and versatile woody plants.
Summer is at the opposite end of the spectrum, with showstopping displays, filled with life! Colours and aromas are omnipresent, providing food and shelter to an array of insects and animals. What makes shrubs also so interesting is that unlike large trees, one can appreciate their flowers at eye level.
Shrub or Tree? Trick Question?
Understanding the differences between trees and shrubs starts with size, but this distinction might not be as straightforward as we’d like. The lines are often blurred when it comes to the main difference between a tree and a shrub. Your first thought may be height, but that is only partially true. According to Botanica’s Pocket: Trees and Shrubs, a botanist would tell you that a tree is a woody single-stemmed plant that grows over 10 feet tall. But that doesn’t take into account the many multi-stemmed woody plants that are obviously trees. In everyday horticulture and gardening, the difference between a shrub and a tree really comes down to the height and shape rather than any set rules. Gardeners consider any multi-stemmed woody plant less than 15-18 feet (5-6m) tall as a shrub and any woody plant taller than that, multi-trunked or not, a tree. A plant’s overall size at maturity is important to keep in mind when selecting plants for your garden.
Sensational Shrubs to Discover at the Jardin botanique de Montréal
We often rely on our eyesight while forgetting other senses when visiting a garden. Nevertheless, our other senses contribute to a greater appreciation of plants. Smell is one of them. Fragrances and perfumes can transport us to a memory, a moment or a person in time. One of the most enticing fragrances of the summer belongs to an evergreen rhododendron, Rhododendron fortunei. With its cool icy lavender colour, the shrub is quite pleasing to the eye. But it is the fragrance that it emits that draws you towards it. This is quite surprising for there are not that many scented evergreen rhododendrons that are cold hardy to the Montreal area. Grown in a sheltered spot, it will surprise your senses for years to come.
Another shrub that will grab your attention is Viburnum carlesii. This handsome shrub is native to part of Korea and Tsushima Island. Its stunning snowball blooms are a definite eye catcher but the fragrance is what makes this plant remarkable. Considered to be one of the best in the floral world, I would highly recommend this shrub for any collection. Viburnum carlesii is perfectly hardy to Montreal while requiring no added protection in the winter. In the fall, its leaves change colour to a dark reddish tint.
A third shrub that blooms later on in the season is the Philadelphus, also known as Sweet Mock Orange. It has either single or double blooms and can come in all sizes. Unfortunately, this shrub is a one-season shrub. Once it has bloomed, it fades into the background. It is therefore important to pair this shrub with other shrubs or perennials that will take over once it has finished blooming.
Bonus Shrub: A Special Resident at the Jardin botanique de Montréal
Gardenia jasminoides is an evergreen shrub that epitomises the South of the United States. This shrub is not hardy to frigid Montreal winters and must be brought back to a cool conservatory when night temperatures plummet to the 10°C mark. The floral aroma of this shrub has a hint of peach and green undertones. There are 200 varieties of gardenias that exist in the world today. This summer, Gardenia will be on display near the water mirror in the Fruticetum for your to enjoy.
These exceptional shrubs can all be observed at the Jardin botanique de Montréal. Whatever your favourite season, shrubs will always have something to impress you and dazzle you. Enjoy!
For a Gardener’s Notebook
- Rhododendron fortunei: Hardiness zone 5b-6a, hardy to the Montreal region, acidic soil and semi shade for ideal growing conditions
- Viburnum carlesii: Hardiness zone 4b, moist and well drained soil, partial sun to full sun for ideal growing conditions
- Philadelphus spp: Hardiness zone 4b, moist and well drained soil, partial sun to full sun for ideal growing conditions
- Gardenia jasminoides: Hardiness zone minimal 8a, This species is not cold hardy in Montreal and must be cultivated indoors during the winter. Requires acidic soil and partial shade to thrive.