Shrubs We do Not Like:

Berms and boulders as part of the Landscape

Based on the hugely popular “Trees we do not like“, and “Vote for the Worst of the Worst-Trees” it is now time to bring you . . .

china_me_boxwood shrubs
[Now that’s a “Shrubbery“, or see below]

Shrubs we do Not Like:

I have written about a few of these culprits in the past week or so, my offenders include:

  1. Juniperus chinensis ‘Hetzii’, the Hetzii juniper, you might as well throw the Pfitzer juniper in there as well. Is that 2? No matter, they both; uh, suck . . . professionally speaking.
  2. Euonymous alata, burning bush, burning bush, burning bush . . . I say no more.
  3. The “Common Privet”, doesn’t deserve to be recognized by it’s botanical name.
  4. Spirea x cineria ‘Grefsheim’, I do not apologize for picking on poor ‘Grefsheim”, heck this newer cultivar may actually be “okay-at best” . . . my pen, er, keypad is aimed squarely at Spirea-a rather unremarkable plant.

There are actually a few more I could add here, but I wish to take away no more thunder(my apologies Kim). So fire away this is your chance to vent to the entire World(well . . . whatever part of the entire World visits this Blog.) and tell us which shrubbery you would never plant and why.

Allright you’ve been given your quest, now deliver the goods”

Knights of Ni


Addendum: I just can’t help myself . . . every time I start talking about shrubs(what’s good, what’s bad) I kinda giggle inside because of this scene from a Monty Python movie.

the Knights

With all due apologies to Monty Python, please do not sue me for posting this script:

Voice over: Meanwhile, King Arthur and Bedevere, not more than a swallow’s flight away, had discovered something.

Knights of Ni: Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni!
Arthur: Who are you?
Knight of Ni: We are the Knights who say….. “Ni”!
Arthur: (horrified) No! Not the Knights who say “Ni”!
Knight of Ni: The same.
Other Knight of Ni: Who are we?
Knight of Ni: We are the keepers of the sacred words: Ni, Ping, and Nee-womm!
Other Knight of Ni: Nee-womm!
Arthur: (to Bedevere) Those who hear them seldom live to tell the tale!
Knight of Ni: The knights who say “Ni” demand….. a sacrifice!
Arthur: Knights of Ni, we are but simple travelers who seek the enchanter who
lives beyond these woods.
Knights of Ni: Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni!
Bedevere: No! Noooo! Aaaugh! No!
Knight of Ni: We shall say “Ni” to you… if you do not appease us.
Arthur: Well what is it you want?
Knight of Ni: We want…..

(pregnant pause)


(minor music)

Arthur: A WHAT?
Knights of Ni: Ni! Ni!! Ni! Ni!
Arthur; No! No! Please, please, no more! We will find you a shrubbery.
Knight of Ni: You must return here with a shrubbery… or else you will never
pass through this wood… alive.
Arthur: O Knights of Ni, you are just and fair, and we will return with a
Knight of Ni: One that looks nice.
Arthur: Of course!
Knight of Ni: And not too expensive.
Arthur; Yes!
Knight of Ni: Noowwwww…. GO!


Arthur: O Knights of Ni. We have brought you your shrubbery. May we go now?
Knight of Ni: Yes, it is a good shrubbery. I like the laurels particularly.
But there is one small problem….
Arthur: What is that?
Knight of Ni: We are now no longer the Knights Who Say “Ni”!
Other Knights of Ni: Ni! Shh! Shh!
Knight of Ni: We are now the Knights who say “Ekky-ekky-ekky-ekky-z’Bang, zoom-Boing, z’nourrrwringmm”.
Other Knight of Ni: Ni!
Knight of Ni: Therefore, we must give you a test.
Arthur: What is this test, O Knights of…..
Knights who ’til recently said “Ni”?
Knight of Ni: Firstly, you must find….


(minor music)

Arthur: Oh not another shrubbery!!
Knight of Ni: (excitedly) THEN… Then, when you have found the shrubbery,
you must place it here, beside this shrubbery, only slightly
higher, so we get the two-level effect with a little path
running down the middle.
Other Knights of Ni: A path! A path! A path! Shh, shhh. Ni! Ni!
Knight of Ni: Then, when you have found the shrubbery, you must cut down the
mightiest tree in the forest…
Wiiiiiithh…. A HERRING!

By Rick Anderson

The Whispering Crane Institute was originally formed to act as the umbrella organization for the Philosophy of Design Symposium, and other seminars and workshops given by Rick Anderson and Richard L. Dube’. In the year 2000 WCI became a sole proprietorship owned by Rick Anderson. Today the WCI provides design and consultation services for Landscape Contractors, acts as a Green Industry think tank, and provides training for others in the form of workshops, seminars, and individual consulting. The WCI also provides written material, opinions, case-studies and how-to articles for industry trade magazines.


  1. Who is this man so wise in the ways of science? (And design.)

    Yeah . . . who are you talking about?

    I am definitely not a shrub expert by any stretch of the imagination. And I fear that my complaint here might be better directed at people and not the poor old plant. But being the guy in the neighborhood/family who kind of knows a little bit about plants, I’m the one who gets the call when the yew takes over the house.
    “I don’t understand it. We run electric hedge trimmer over it a couple times a year, and now we can’t see off the front porch.” They understand it even less when I show them that it’s going to look like crap after I’m done getting it reined in and then it’s going to take several years to fill back in. So I’d never plant one.

    I wanted so much to chime in on the “Yew”, but in the last few years it has taken it’s lumps. Yes . . .people still plant them too close to each other(or something else), have no idea how to prune(shear), and neglect them badly(amazing what a handful or two of 10-10-10 will do) but they manage to survive. They’ve been kicked around enough. Though someday a should do an “Ode to the common yew”.
    I will say this about Taxus sp. of plants, the Taxus baccata “Repandens’ is a great shrub, good habit, form color, and texture . . . I like it a lot. If givn to the right people-no pruning, and definitely no shearing!

  2. Ok Rick, in the interest of conserving space. I will limit myself to three…
    PJM Rhododendron: Overused to the point that it is obnoxious. It looks like a blob of chewed grape bubble gum.
    Corylus avellena ‘Contorta’: Common Name: “Canker Farm”. An oddity at best. Why does anyone plant this contraption?
    I guess we all need a juniper on the list so mine is Juniperus ‘Plumosa Compacta Youngstown’. If you’ve never seen Phomopsis up close and personal, just plant a few of these babies. Especially near irrigated beds or turf.

    The Giant Duck Institute weighs in I see, “chewed bubble gum”, “Canker Farm” and “Phomopsis” will be added to the list. You guys are the Duck sure are descriptive. . . . . *pushes away from desk* . . . *walks outside . . . whistling the whole way* . . . *stops, near back bed to admire his “Canker Farm” on standard* . . . *smiles, and continues whistling*

  3. Rick, I’m with ya, I think. Except I love all the spireas I’ve ever seen, dude! So this ‘Grefshein’ must be really bad. I know spireas are as crap but they’re DOERS!
    The worst looking shrub in my neighborhood has GOT to be euonymous. S

    Are you talking about the Euonymus f. family? The gold/yellow variegated shrubs? the ones that get leaf blight and scale? Amongst many other diseases . . . if so I was close to adding that to my list.
    Spirea’s as DOERS-interesting way to put it, But if you ask me Spirea’s are DOERS to the landscape World, as Irish conscripts were to Longshanks.

  4. Amen to all of them. Especially the hated BURNING BUSH. Argh. Argh. Argh.
    But I will definitely echo Craig’s comments. Most of what I hate about plants are the way they are (mis)used. I love silver plants, for example, so you would think I would love dusty miller. But argh.

    I’ll echo Craig too about mis-use, but there are some plants that should never be given the opportunity to even be mis-used!

  5. I’m going to go with Prunus laurocerasus. Pruned short or tall, wide or narrow, it’s just underwhelming. And must there be such a volume of it? Is there really that little to choose from? Of course not.

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