Unlike quick-fix television makeovers, a real garden is never ‘finished’. The joy of gardening comes from witnessing our plots evolve and mature over the years, while marvelling at nature taking up residence in the wildlife havens we create.
Well, that’s the theory! In the real world, gardeners crave colour from flowers and foliage from the outset. Without established shrubs, gardens lack backbone while garden borders can appear lacklustre even as spring turns to early summer. The good news is that even a blank canvas can be on the road to maturity if fast-growing shrubs and climbers get their roots into the ground ahead of summer. Choose our fast-growing shrubs for instant impact.
1.Speedy Red-topped Wonder
With its flame red-tinted, glossy young foliage, Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ makes a superb addition to any garden border and will draw admiring glances if grown as a focal point shrub. The most intense leaf colour is achieved where plants can bask in sunlight, which also helps to display its ivory flowers at their finest.
A lack of privacy can be a big issue in new gardens, and that’s where photinia comes to the rescue. In decent conditions – that’s fertile, well-drained soil – they can grow by up to 30cm per year, making a reasonably fast-growing specimen shrub or informal hedge.
2. Cottage Favourite Stands The Test of Time
With its lacecap (flat) or mophead (round) heads of flowers, Hydrangea macrophylla has stood the test of time. Hydrangeas are one of the easiest low-maintenance garden shrubs and they’re quick off the mark. The only caveat is that soil must be moisture-retentive, because these are thirsty shrubs. Other than that, they’ll fill out borders at a rate of knots and flower reliably each season.
Hydrangeas on sale at garden centres commonly display blue, pink or white flowers but how they behave in your garden depends on soil type. Alkaline soil will give rise to pink blooms, while acidic conditions generate blue flowers, so there’s always a surprise in store.
3. Top Choice For Year-round Impact
and evergreen, the cherry laurel knows how to make a big impact from an early age. Prunus laurocerasus, to use its official name, is a fast-growing hedge that’s prized for its bronze young foliage which transforms to glossy green as leaves mature.
It has more to offer than handsome foliage, however, as spikes of white, pollinator-friendly springtime flowers – often followed by red berries – are a sight to behold. This large, spreading shrub is a master of quickly filling out the backs of shrub borders or creating privacy when grown as a hedge.
4. Wonderful for Wildlife
The butterfly bush has a reputation as a bit of a brute. Chances are you’ve seen buddleja growing wild alongside railway lines. Choose the right variety, however, and be prepared to chop plants back hard in spring, and you’re on to a fast-growing winner that’ll fill gardens with colour from summer into autumn. Showy, conical panicles of tiny flowers are often scented, and there’s no finer shrub for attracting masses of butterflies and bees.
Buddleja davidii ‘White Profusion’ quickly forms a majestic shrub that’s packed with huge clusters of perfumed white flowers. Team it up with ‘Royal Red’ – famed for its giant, honey-scented blooms – and your shrub borders will enjoy a dynamic colour contrast. Fancy a butterfly bush with a twist? Try the bicolour ‘Berries and Cream’ which forms a wow factor focal point with panicles of purple and white blooms that can reach 20cm long!
5. Fast for Flower Power
Cheap, cheerful, and growing at a rate of knots, lavatera is the unsung hero of the gardening world. Often called shrubby mallows, these fast-growers pack incredible flower power, blooming profusely over a long season. You won’t find the hollyhock-like blooms of lavatera at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, because designers shun this cottage garden favourite due to its tendency to become woody. That’s easily avoided if you hard prune lavatera in spring, which triggers a spurt of fresh growth that’ll carry the new season’s flowers.
One of the most handsome mallows for the back of a border is Lavatera x clementii ‘Bredon Springs’. An abundance of mauve-pink blooms hark back to the cottage borders of yesteryear while plants carry on flowering into autumn. ‘Barnsley’ is another top choice, famed for a profusion of pretty white flowers that mature to soft pink. Lavatera trimestris ‘Mont Blanc’ transforms sunny garden borders into a wildlife haven, with large, trumpet-shaped white flowers that will be buzzing with pollinators.
6. Intruder-proof Berried Treasure!
Pyracantha – better known as firethorn – is worth its weight in gold for quickly boosting garden privacy. Thorny growth is invaluable for deterring intruders while magnificent displays of berries in autumn and winter provide much needed interest at a time of the year when immature gardens can lay bare. How long displays of berries last for depends on how quickly the vividly colourful fruits are stripped by visiting birds!
For a fast-growing, upright, evergreen hedge that can put on up to 60cm of growth per year, try Pyracantha ‘Red Column’. Fragrant, white flowers herald the arrival of spring, while bright red berries appear in abundance against prickly stems during the colder months. Pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ is an evergreen, all-round winner – a strong-growing, low-maintenance and fast-growing hedge with healthy, upright growth. An abundance of small, white flowers in early summer is followed by glowing orange berries as the season winds down.
7. Fast Climbing Plants for Boundaries
Tatty fences and ramshackle sheds – almost every garden has an eyesore boundary or outbuilding that would benefit from being cloaked in flowers and foliage. That’s where Clematis montana works wonders, scrambling skywards at a rate of knots and flowering profusely from late spring into early summer.
Montanas are rampant clematis and many are fragrant. Provide a trellis or wire supports and climbing plants will head skywards under their own steam. Consider Clematis montana ‘Tetrarose’, which will carpet fences in almond-scented, pink flowers with glowing yellow centres from May into June. Clematis montana grandiflora makes light work of cloaking pergolas, sheds and fences with pure-white flowers, while ‘Elizabeth’ works wonders for smothering large boundaries with fragrant, soft-pink blooms.
8. Brilliant for Beginners
If you’re new to gardening or want a garden shrub that’ll steam ahead without any fuss, you won’t go wrong with Spiraea japonica. The Japanese spiraea is a master of flower power, filling your garden with big, flat heads of dainty pink or white flowers from midsummer. This deciduous, bushy shrub thrives in sun or part-shade, so it’s easily pleased.
Do you have a favourite fast-growing shrub? Let us know in the comments.