Shrub types are probably the most used structural type in parks and gardens. Because of this there is a lot of experience within the horticultural tradition of how to design with shrubs. However, it must be said that there are many problems with the standard treatment of shrubs: ‘shrub mass’ plantings, characterised by block plantings of ornamental shrubs, can be visually monotonous, offer little in the way of seasonal change or wildlife value, and are usually maintained in a very crude manner that prevents dynamic development (Dunnett 2003). Moving on to a more dynamic approach to designing with shrubs means, to some degree, a change of perspective and maybe even the development of new design concepts. Furthermore, most shrubs that are used are pioneer species, but how do these interact with each other and with shrubs and small trees which are not pioneer species? Also, a lot of new knowledge is waiting to be explored concerning how shrub types develop in the very long run, and concerning what patterns and species are characteristic of old age and renewal phases.
The shrubs should sometimes be designed so they remain as long as possible as vital shrub areas or zones, perhaps enabling the human-scale division of spaces. At other times they should be designed as pioneer phases that lead to both high and low woodland types, providing a lot of flowers, berries and shelter for birds, whilst we are waiting for the trees to develop, notably trees which can be quite anonymous for the first years. Compared to most other types, shrub species and shrubs are short lived, but, on the other hand, they also gain a mature character relatively early.