Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday: Shrubs in a Wildflower Garden

I am crazy about the shrubs I've added to my garden. They're all lovely, some more than others, but, each brings something more to the table than good looks...they have good wildlife value.
Lindera benzoin host plant for Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly

In fact, nearly every plant has been chosen with birds, insects and other critters in mind. My native shrubs  provide food, nesting and shelter for mammals and birds, as well as being a host plant to butterflies, moths and other insects that keep my wildflower garden thriving. 
Euonymus americanus
When we bought our house 28 years ago the yard had a canopy of Shagbark Hickories, elms (American and Slippery Bark) and a variety of oak trees, all growing in a weedy lawn with absolutely no understory. Seriously, there was none.
Itea virginica
It's taken me a very long time, but, I finally feel as if I have found the right combination and balance of small trees and shrubs that can thrive in the shallow clay soil that is too dry during the summer and too wet during the winter.
Croton Alabamensis
 The ones that thrive are exceptional and honorary members of the Rough and Tumble Wildflower Club.

Photinia pyrifolia (Aronia arbutifolia)
They meet my criteria to a T~They're native, they provide for pollinators and other critters, they shade and protect my spring ephemerals, provide structure to the garden, they are lovely to look at and they help create a healthy and diverse ecosystem.
Hydrangea arborescens
When I add a shrub to the garden it's with a great deal of research and thought and that's the story behind my most recent addition.

Please welcome Diervilla sessilifolia "Butterfly' to the garden!
Photo credit: Mark A. Garland @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
I can honestly say that I've wanted a Southern Bush Honeysuckle since forever. Who wouldn't want a shrub that's been described as happy in dry shade.  Holy Moly, I had to have it in the garden.

SBH is a low growing mounding native shrub with yellow flowers that blooms in the summer  and periodically until late summer. The fall color has been described as good! Since it's a colonizing plant it would be perfect on a embankment to help with erosion. The cultivar 'Butterfly' is said to have copper flushed green leaves, be of smaller stature than the species and have good fall color. It's attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds....and it tolerates almost any soil except one with standing water.

Sounds like an ideal candidate for Clay and Limestone.


 The particulars:
Plant        Colonizing shrub
Light:      Partial Shade to Full Sun
Height:    2 feet to 5 feet
Width:     4 feet to 6 feet
Zones:     4a to 8b
Bloom:    Yellow flowers age to a nice coral color, blooms early summer
Pollinators:   Bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.
Soil:         Not particular, can take dry shade, but, no standing water

It is listed as a threatened species in Tennessee...Middle Tennesseans, you can find this shrub at GroWild, others can find it available online. Please this shrub is not be be confused with invasive Lonicera mackii (here for a post)

Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. WW is about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom or not, and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. Please leave a comment when you add your url to Mr Linky. 

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. I'll need to follow in your footsteps, choosing plants for the next garden with great care to support wildlife. Especially nectar for the sunbirds who are now used to sugar water feeders. Once they are established, I find shrubs that can be pruned to mutual agreement the very best garden plants!

  2. Great post. I love my native shrubs too Gail. My garden had no understory either...just trees left and all the soil scraped away in development as they built the house...I still am working on that understory. I will add some of these wonderful shrubs to the list of possibles as I work on replacing the native understory that was stripped away.

  3. Perfect timing for a shrub post. I love each one and all they attract. I will have to look into that last one that likes dry shade. I have lots of that. Happy WW. The name of this day makes me think spring even though it is 10F this morning. Come on spring.

  4. Thank you for hosting this lovely meme.
    Great post. It is fascinating to see the kind of shrubs that are wild over there. But of course all plants are wild somewhere.
    My wild flower is in bloom in the south of France in February.

  5. I am adding more evergreen shrubs but I need to look for some natives for the woodland area. Thanks for reminding me!

  6. Nice post! Look forward to seeing how the Diervilla performs in your garden.

    Like you, I'm a fan of Aronia. It's been very tough and beautiful in my garden. A nice combo. All three of my plants - one A. arbutifolia and two A. melanocarpas - are still young, but they're thriving thus far.

    I tried Itea once, but it couldn't make it in my garden - maybe too sunny and windy? I'd love to know the secret of your success with this plant.

    Similarly, I believe Lindera benzoin needs a bit of shade? Does it get some protection from the sun in your garden and has it been drought tolerant for you?

    1. Aaron, The Spice bush is planted is semi-shade. I see it in deeper shade at Radnor Lake. Itea needs moisture, especially if planted in full sun.

    2. Hi Gail,

      Just checking back now that we're in November (already!) to see how the Diervilla fared in your garden in its first year. Can we get an update please? :)

    3. Aaron, it did well...Not a lot of blooms but, I expected that for its first year and it was an awfully dry summer. I plan to add a few more. I think it makes more sense as a shrub in my garden then say a native azalea! Thanks for asking.

    4. Thanks for the update, Gail.

      You've encouraged me to try adding one to my garden in the spring. (I wanted to get one this autumn, but had a devilish time trying to find one, even via mail order from my preferred suppliers.)

      Any fall color? Is it still holding onto its leaves?

    5. Still has its leaves, but it's in a protected spot...Will let you know if it gets any fall color after we have the big freeze this week.

  7. Once again - thanks for the shout out here at GroWild, Inc. I have no doubt you will be thrilled with your Diervilla 'Butterfly' - I'm looking out my window right now at a cluster of 3 planted in our front yard. Keep us posted! And as always - we love it when you visit!

  8. I like the idea of honoring shrubs in the wildflower garden especially for their role in attracting and providing resting space for all the pollinators and other creatures visiting the garden. You've selected a nice range of understory plants to make your garden more natural over time and the SBH is a beauty.

  9. I have a friend with photinias and I love them. I thin they are really underused.

  10. I enjoyed your post as always, Gail. I love the blooms on the Euonymus americanus. I'll try to participate in WW next month.

  11. Have just entered my post... (tongue in cheek - sorry, Gail!)

  12. Sounds like a winner! I know you put a lot of thought and care into every decision and every planting. Your garden is a haven for wildlife!

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  14. It's a welcome shock to see green and blooms on your blog after all the snow outside in Maine. It may be a few more months before I can rejoin your delightful Wildflower Wednesdays. Your shrubs are wonderfully diverse.

  15. I was surprised to see you feature this this month, Gail. Last summer I had some volunteers spring up here and there in my garden that I couldn't identify, and I asked our Extension horticulture expert about it. She immediately identified it as Bush Honeysuckle and told me to get rid of it right away because it's an invasive species here! Doing a little research, though, I see there are several kinds, and I think it's the Asian honeysuckle that is the one to avoid. So a word of caution to readers--make sure you are getting the native species!
    Itea is one of my new favorite shrubs; I'd like to find a place for more and a Lindera, too! I hope to join in again on Wildflower Wednesday next month--I hope the snow has melted by then:)

    1. Rose, Diervilla sessilifolia is not the same as Lonicera mackii (Bush honeysuckle). This is a native plant that is actually threatened in the state. But you're smart to be scared of the invasive Bush Honeysuckles! They are horrid. gail

  16. You always come up with native plants I've never heard of, and you make me want to add them to my garden!

    The combination of Itea with phlox is stellar.

  17. Oooo, 4a means that that southerner might also be a good northerner.

  18. I also have itea and lots of diervilla lonicera. The diervilla will self-sow. I also have diervila rivularis, which is considered a threatened/imperiled plant. It's much larger than d. lonicera and the nursery I bought it from doesn't have it listed as current stock. If you'd like me to send you a whip to try to root, let me know. :o) It takes dry shade like a champ. Very tough plant. I used to have a lindera until voles ate the roots but my dog scared the vole to death so now we're even.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson