When we think of the urban forest, we often think of the trees, but did you know that shrubs are also an integral part of the urban forest ecosystem? Shrubs provide us with a number of benefits similar to trees, including privacy, enhanced biodiversity and even climate change mitigation! As such, shrubs add great value to backyards, so here is a list of the top five reasons why you should plant them!
1. Shrubs provide privacy
Although shrubs generally don’t grow as tall as most trees, some can get tall enough at maturity to provide privacy from curious neighbours or open spaces surrounding your yard. If you live in a busy area or a newer development, you can likely relate to these scenarios. Additionally, because shrubs are multi-stemmed and often quite dense, they can also help buffer some of the noise coming from neighbours’ yards or nearby streets, which will provide you with an even greater sense of privacy.
2. Shrubs can provide a tasty snack
Have you ever wondered what fresh fruit right from the garden tastes like? Well, look no further – Ontario is a host to some of the yummiest fruiting shrubs, including purple flowering raspberry, serviceberry, northern wild raisin and common elderberry. Fruit-bearing shrubs not only provide a great snack for humans, they also provide food for wildlife! Before tasting, always be absolutely sure you know what they are and that they are safe for human consumption.
3. Shrubs enhance local biodiversity
Although shrubs are a smaller addition to our environment, they play a big role in enhancing biodiversity. Shrubs provide habitat and shelter for wildlife and attract pollinators and songbirds through their flowers and fruit. Urbanization has led to fragmented landscapes where wildlife habitats are no longer connected to each other. Planting shrubs could help bridge these gaps between existing habitats and food sources for wildlife, all while increasing species diversity in your neighbourhood!
4. Shrubs help us breathe
Just as trees help to filter the air in polluted metropolitan areas, shrubs also contribute to improving air quality by trapping harmful pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone in their leaves. This process is very important as air pollution can contribute to various respiratory issues in humans. Along with keeping the air clean and breathable, shrubs absorb greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which helps to mitigate the effects of climate change.
5. Shrubs can help you de-stress
When presented with a stressful situation, people often seek out nature as a coping mechanism. Bringing some nature into your garden by adding shrubs that provide eye-level foliage for when you are feeling stressed out can be very calming. Urbanization has led to a separation between residential homes and green environments, which means that access to green space is becoming more challenging. A lack of access to green space is thought to make people more vulnerable to the negative effects of stressful life events. Shrubs can help re-connect those spaces to help combat this effect.
Ultimately, planting shrubs can provide many benefits to an urban environment. LEAF is here to help you decide which shrubs will work best in your space in order to maximize those benefits. We offer single shrubs for purchase, as well as themed shrub bundles to suit your specific needs. Our privacy shrub bundle consists of dense shrubs that grow up to 5 or 6 feet tall and can help provide some of that privacy you have been longing for. Our edible shrub bundle includes shrubs that produce fruit that can be eaten by both humans and native wildlife. Our native bee bundle and our native songbird bundle are designed to attract pollinators and birds to your yard, and our small yard shrub bundle is designed for those that have limited space but still want the added benefits that shrubs can provide.
Learn more online about how to purchase shrubs. Take advantage of the knowledge our arborists can share about what’s right for your yard through either the in-person or online consultation process. Apply for our backyard tree planting programs today to get started!
Adriana Rezai-Stevens is the Planting and Stewardship Coordinator at LEAF.
The Backyard Tree Planting Program is supported by the City of Toronto, the Regional Municipality of York, the City of Markham, the Town of Newmarket, the Town of Ajax, Toronto Hydro and Ontario Power Generation.