If your garden is small, you may look with envy at fellow gardeners
with lots of land. Sizeable plots can hold a wide range of woody
plants, including large trees and broad shrubs which would quickly
outgrow a small garden.
Whether you garden in a small city lot or a suburban townhouse,
consideration should be given to maximizing the impact that each
plant makes in the garden. A small garden doesn’t have the room to
grow a white pine, with its mature height of 80 feet and 30 foot
girth, but it can accommodate a dwarf version of a white pine.
The bright yellow flowers of forsythia are welcome after a long
winter, however, once the flowers are gone, the plant lacks
visual interest. If you have room for only one shrub, perhaps a
large green forsythia is not the right choice.
Plant breeders have broadened the palette of plants beyond the
more staid and ungainly species available to gardeners of
earlier generations. As always, the dictum of “right-plant,
right-place” holds for choosing plants. Be sure to match site
conditions with a plant’s cultural needs. Know the mature height
and width of a plant, allowing it to grow gracefully in the
garden without resorting to pruning to keep it “the right size”.
You’re buying a plant, not a couch, and it is the
wise gardener who knows that the cute little four foot tall
spruce trees beckoning them at the nursery will eventually
swallow their entire garden. To that end, each of the following
plants has the appropriate size and multi-season attributes that
would add excitement to a small (or large) garden:
stolonifera ‘Neil Z’ Pucker Up!™
– This deciduous, red-twig dogwood is unlike its brethren. The
foliage is puckered, giving it a distinctive and attractive
textured appearance. Grow in filtered to full sun; evenly moist
soil. Mature size is 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. If space allows
it makes a stunning display, especially in the winter with its
bright red stems, when planted in groups of 3, 5 or 7.
Forsythia ‘Citrus Swizzle’
– A deciduous, dwarf forsythia with
gold-variegated foliage. Yellow flowers are formed in early
spring, and after they drop, the foliage carries this forsythia
through the remainder of the growing season; fall foliage
coloration is burgundy-red. Best in full sun to light shade
and, like most forsythias, it is tolerant of average soil
conditions. Grows to a diminutive 1-1/2 to 2 feet tall and
wide, making it perfect for smaller gardens.
Forsythia viridissima var. koreana ‘Kumson’
– After the yellow spring flowers fade, the foliage takes over –
imbedded within the dark green leaves is an unusual and striking
network of white veins. This stunning forsythia grows 4 to 6
feet tall and wide, but will tolerate light pruning. Grow in
full sun and average soil conditions.
Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Hokomarevo’ Everlasting™
– This new, deciduous, dwarf hydrangea blooms on old and new
wood , but its “claim to fame” are the spectacular flower
colorations – starting out pink or blue (depending on soil pH),
the flowers can fade to combinations of deep pink, maroon or
blue, then add green highlights as they age. Grow in sun to
partial shade; well-drained, evenly moist soil. Can grow to 3
feet tall and wide.
Hydrangea paniculata ‘ILVOBO’ Bobo®
– A charming, dwarf, panicle hydrangea covered with numerous,
large white blooms in the summer; the flowers take on a pinkish
blush in the fall. Grow in sun to partial shade; well-drained,
evenly moist soil. Matures at 3 feet tall and wide.
horizontalis ‘Hegedus’ Good Vibrations™
– a low growing, spreading evergreen, this juniper, unlike many
other members of the genus, is soft to the touch. In spring,
the foliage is an attractive chartreuse color, which changes to
bright yellow, then takes on orange hues in the fall. Grow in
full sun; well-drained, average soil conditions. Makes an
excellent ground cover, growing 1 to 2 feet tall and 10 feet
strobus ‘Blue Jay’
– This diminutive evergreen is a cultivar of our native white
pine (Pinus strobus.) The plant has a mounded growth habit with
beautiful, blue-green needles. Grow in full sun; well-drained,
average soil. Can grow 2 to 4 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide.
Because of its size, it makes an excellent foundation shrub for
a sunny area.
Dwarf White Pine on Standard
Rhododendron x ‘Farrow’ Bollywood™
– This is a very unusual semi-evergreen (to evergreen) azalea.
Neon, pink-red flowers top the foliage in spring; in addition,
the leaves make a dramatic statement for the remainder of the
season because they have a vivid, glossy, silver and dark green
variegation. Grow in sun to partial shade; well-drained,
organically-rich, evenly moist soil. Matures at 1 to 2 feet
tall and 2 to 3 feet wide.
japonica ‘Tracy’ Double Play® Big Bang
– Spireas are great plants, under-used in home gardens. To
entice the homeowner, this cultivar has foliage that starts out
pumpkin-orange in the spring, changes to yellow-gold in the
summer, and is topped with exceptionally large (for a spirea)
pink flowers. Grow in full sun to light shade; well-drained,
evenly moist soil. Can grow 2 to 3 feet tall and wide.
x media ‘Huber’s Tawny Gold’
– This attractive yew is a dense, spreading, evergreen shrub
with beautiful, tawny-gold needles. The plant has a natural,
vase-shaped growth habit, but it can easily be sheared. Best in
full sun to light shade; well-drained, average soil. Grows 3 to
4 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide.
Choose some of these exciting new introductions
for your smaller space, then sit and relax in your garden,
reflecting upon the extra hours of mowing and weeding a large
Roses for Realists