Five of my favorite deciduous shrubs for gardens in the Santa Fe area are Roses, Western Sand Cherry, Dwarf Korean lilac, Red twig dogwood and Edible Raspberry shrubs. Deciduous shrubs are a good way to provide color and structure to the landscape, with the added benefit of being more tolerant of dog traffic and requiring less maintenance than perennials.
— Peggy Wright (Masters in Landscape Architecture)
Western Sand Cherry shrubs, Prunus Besseyi, is a wonderful vase shaped landscape plant with spectacular fall color, white flowers in the spring and an edible berry for bird forage. Western Sand Cherries prefer full sun and will grow to 4′-6′ tall and wide, depending on the availability of water and the condition of the soil. They do seem to be a favorite of deer and the low growing variety, ‘Pawnee Butte’ is susceptible to rabbit browsing so they preform better in a protected location. There is also a purple leaf variety called Prunus x Cistena.
Red Twig Dogwood shrub, Cornus Sericea, is a native to the riparian areas of the southwest and northern regions of the United States and Canada. It’s primarily planted in the landscape for it’s good fall color and brilliant red twigs which are a brilliant addition to the garden during the winter months. Red Twig Dogwoods do best in full to part shade and look particularly striking placed next to the white bark of Aspen trees.
Raspberry shrubs are an extremely versatile shrub providing bee forage in the spring, fruit in the summer or early fall (depending on the variety), and a lovely red color in the fall. They will provide superior fruit production given a bi-annual feeding of compost or other organic material, consistent watering and annual pruning. Care should be taken in selecting a sheltered location for raspberries as they will thrive in rich, moist soils, but can be invasive, suckering into neighboring areas that have irrigation or supplemental stormwater.
Roses have become one of my favorite deciduous shrubs for Santa Fe due to their long bloom time, fragrance (in some varieties) and color. I have also found that they require relatively little maintenance (a little pruning and feeding) and are relatively disease free in our dry climate. They are great combined with ornamental grasses, lavender or dark green of evergreen.
Dwarf Korean Lilac shrubs, Syringa Meyeri ‘Palibin’, is a reliable compact shrub with a purple spring flower, uniform rounded form and excellent mildew resistance. It has good drought resistance once established and can take sun to part shade.