I am a big fan of the mixed border, which is a flowerbed that combines perennials and annuals with shrubs, small trees and roses. It is an excellent planting scheme for any size garden, but is especially suited for smaller spaces where you need to make the most of what you have. Shrubs play an important role in the mixed border because they build a strong framework and, depending on the varieties you choose, offer brilliant color, impressive flowers and interesting barks.
To achieve all of the above in partially shaded areas I recommend the hydrangea. It is a shrub that has it all – flowers, form and foliage! Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ is a stop-the-car kind of shrub that I grow for its chameleon-like quality of changing colors through the seasons. In spring large flower heads (6-12 inches) in bright chartreuse glow in the landscape, then change to cream revealing shades of pink and finally maroon as the light lessens in the fall. I like to dry them for displays or when left on the stem they add winter interest to the garden.
‘Limelight’ is a speedy grower that will top out at 6 to 8 feet so be sure to give it plenty of room. Choose a site that has light shade to partial sun. Too much shade will result in reduced bloom production. In cool climates you can even plant ‘Limelight’ in full sun.