Spring is the peak season for garden coaches. They're getting calls from new gardeners wanting to create their first garden and from others just looking to give their tired old yards (lawn, a few foundation plants and nothing else) a long-overdue make-over.
And for gorgeous, full, low-care gardens, I usually recommend small trees and lots of shrubs, the more the better. Specifically, for spots with a half day or more of sun, I always suggest planting spireas - one or two large ones as accents, and 3, 5 or more small ones in a mass.
See, the expert gardeners at Chanticleer Garden in Pennsylvania know how to mass small spireas, like the ones in this scene from late May. I'm not sure which varieties they are, but I can identify the two on the right that I found in Homestead's Davidsonville shrub department. The yellow variety is 'Gold Mound' - it grows to 3 feet tall by 2-4 feet wide. The more reddish one is 'Magic Carpet', which grows to just 18 inches high and 24 inches wide.
Above is another example, this time in a tiny front-yard garden, using just one small spirea as an accent. It's been making passers-by on this Takoma Park, MD street happy for years now.
And in all its pure-white glory, another terrific do-er of a plant is 'Snowmound' or sometimes called 'Bridal Wreath' Spirea. They grow to 3 - 5 feet tall and wide and this large one is helping to fill up a large border in my back garden. It even survived being moved just months before this photo was taken! Tough as nails, those spireas.
In my 30+ years of gardening, every one of my half-dozen Spirea varieties has been extremely easy to grow, requiring modest watering the first season and almost no attention thereafter, except for a bit of renewal pruning once a year. Also, they're fast-growing, which is a wonderful trait when you're trying to fill up a garden with a modest budget, right?