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North Florida | Jacksonville | St. Augustine Landscapes

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What makes a plant a shrub?

Is a shrub a bush...or is that something different?

Well I had to look it up and the definitions I found seem to just be the same thing. This is what 'Webster' had to say on the subject.
Shrub - N . a plant with several branching woody stems and no main trunk, smaller than most trees.
Bush - N. a shrub || a clump of shrubs
When you look it up not the good old fashioned 'Webster' way but the more modern google it way you get just about the same definition for both words, pretty much the same thing written differently. Except that bush can be used as a noun to refer to uncultivated land area and as a verb meaning to branch out and cluster thickly.
- Woody plant with several stems: a woody plant without a trunk but with several stems growing from the base
- A woody plant of relatively low height, having several stems arising from the base and lacking a single trunk; a bush.
Not really much help, that definition as you can imagine could encompass hundreds of plants and it does. At some point somewhere along the way we started referring to these lower growing plants with multiple stems as shrubs. Well I mean they aren't trees after all they have to be something. Right? Shrubs are right in the middle of the height scale of the plant kingdom, most are not really low growing enough for us to consider them as groundcover or tall enough for us to think of them as shade trees, they fall into that enormously large area somewhere in the middle that we refer to as bushes or shrubs.
As modern day gardeners when we think of shrubs we generally assume a lower growing plant that is relatively hardy and long lived. We tend to think of shrubs as permanent additions to the landscape so we expect that they behave accordingly, without much fuss on our end to keep them alive and healthy looking. So when we refer to a plant as a shrub that means to us not only that once planted its gonna stick around a while but that we wont have to really do much to it for it to do its intended job in the landscape. Shrubs are the low maintenance solutions to out middle height planting needs.

How do these shrubs or bushes fit into the

North Florida Landscape and what is their function?

As you can imagine with such a broad distinction of "not a tree but not a groundcover" these plants that we have put into the category of shrub have a wide variety of uses in the landscape. Shrubs can be used as foundation plantings for a home or office building, a hedge screen to hide unsightly views, used as a living fence, a property line marker to define the borders of what we consider our gardens or landscape. Shrubs can be used as single focal points and allowed to grow into miniature trees as specimens of interest or massed together for an awesome display of bloom or foliage color. We use shrubs as the bones or framework in our mixed perennial borders, as soil erosion control on steep embankments, and guides to direct foot traffic to and from specific areas of the garden. Shrubs perform a myriad of services and functions in our modern gardens landscape.
To better understand the function of shrubs in our modern landscapes it may help if you think of landscape architecture in the more familiar terms of our homes. If your landscape is your home then groundcover and lawns (or the landscapes horizontal plane) would be the flooring we choose to walk on, the carpets that define and delineate spaces. Trees that make up the landscapes overhead plane are the ceiling that protect us from the elements. Shrubs would be the vertical planes, the walls that make us feel separated from surrounding traffic and neighboring properties, shrubs also will be the decorative elements we put on those walls to make our space more attractive. Shrubs can even be the doorways that lead from one space to another in our gardens.