Shrubs

(Question)

We live in a townhouse complex and Management is re-doing our front gardens. We have been asked to chose between Box Wood, Hick Yews and Junipers for the new shrubs. These are meant to disguise the space between the foundation and the siding, and at the same time sustain through the winter to minimize risk of winter or sun-burn….as well as provide greenery throughout the year. The house is facing south west, and gets lots of sun.The soil in the beds is to be replaced before plantings go in, but tends to be dry. We live in the GTA.What do you suggest? Thanks…..

(Answer)

Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.

All three evergreen shrubs–Boxwood, Juniper and Hick’s Yew–are excellent choices for screening and four-season greenery.

Boxwood has small, glossy green leaves and is slow-growing; it will sprout new growth from old wood so any winter damage is easily pruned out and will quickly fill-in. It forms a nice background to any colourful plants in front of it. Boxwood prefers partial shade and is comparatively shallow-rooted. Since your site enjoys full sun, if you choose Boxwood, then be sure to keep the shrubs well-watered, and put down a layer of organic mulch to protect the roots. Please note that Boxwood leaves are toxic; ingestation will cause severe stomach upset and possibly even death.

Juniper comes in many different shapes and sizes, from sky-high to ground-hugging, but they all share the same tough disposition and are low maintenance shrubs. They also prefer full sun so is ideally suited to your site. Their foliage is rather prickly and can give some people a rash, so wear gloves when handling them. Their berries, if eaten in large quantities, are poisonous.

Hick’s Yew is a narrow, upright shrub that grows 15-25 feet tall. It performs well from full sun to full shade, and tolerates wind and pollution. Its glossy deep green needles keep their colour well, but may suffer from sun scorch when planted facing south or southwest, so keep it well-watered and mulched. All parts of the Yew shrub, with the exception of the bright red berry flesh, are highly toxic.

All three are handsome, low-maintenance shrubs that should do well in your site. Your tastes and preferences will dictate the final choice.