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What is a Shrubbery?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2016
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A shrubbery is a garden feature which is composed, as one might imagine, primarily of shrubs. Shrubberies were common in 19th century English gardens, and they continue to be used in very traditional formal gardens. They were also immortalized in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a famous 1974 film in which a shrubbery is demanded as a toll to enter a particular woodland.

The shrubs used in a shrubbery can vary widely, depending on the taste of the gardener and the style of the garden. Generally, the shrubs are carefully planted and grouped in a way which will be attractive as the shrubs mature. Maintenance is also required, ensuring that the shrubbery does not grow out of control, and allowing visitors to appreciate the natural beauty of the shrubs incorporated within it.

This garden feature is one of the hallmarks of the so-called “gardenesque” style, which rose to prominence in England in the early 1800s. This style of gardening was characterized by a desire to place an emphasis on individual plants, providing a place to showcase unusual, striking, or simply beautiful plants. Gardenesque gardens were often laid out in the form of winding gravel walks which allowed visitors to slowly amble through the garden, contemplating each feature as it arose along the way, and these walks were commonly lined with shrubberies.

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A shrubbery can be tall or short, purely foliage based or floral, and it may be cut or trimmed into fanciful shapes. A well-designed shrubbery can help to screen a part of the garden for privacy, and shrubberies can also be used to create smooth transitions between different parts of the garden. They may also be used as backdrops to display particular plants.

Installing a shrubbery is fairly easy, but gardeners should be aware that patience is a must when planting a shrubbery, as it may take several years for the shrubbery to mature. It is a good idea to research plants carefully before including them in a shrubbery, ensuring that the growth habits of the plants are well understood, and regular pruning and trimming to keep the plants in shape is also required, unless you want a rampant shrubbery which sprawls across pathways and flower beds. If time is of the essence, use fast-maturing plants like bamboo to create a shrubbery, or consider purchasing plants which are already fairly mature.

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