Big ideas for small gardens

By Pam Roy | Jan 11, 2012


Photo courtesy of Pam Roy

Pieris 'Little Heath," another choice for small spaces.

No time for pruning? Tired of what seems to be the inevitable jungle look that happens in too many yards?   

Fact No.1; yards are getting smaller.  Fact No. 2; plants look “cute’’ in the nursery when they are small and can be tucked here and there into the garden.  Fact No. 3; those cute little plants grow!

Fortunately, more choices are becoming available for the discerning gardener.  

With a well designed yard, one can have year round color and interest, include some of the newer hybridized varieties of old favorites and not have the plants outgrow their places in a few years.  

Here are some of the newer offerings that may be available in the local nurseries for spring of 2012.

Ah… forsythia.  The bright yellow flowers bring cheer to all of us in the Pacific Northwest after those longs months of gray and wet weather.  However, during the rest of the year, forsythia can be an unruly mess, taking up way more space than it earns.   

The new hybrid variety named Forsythia x ‘Minfor6’ brightens early spring days with cheerful yellow flowers adorning the branches from base to tip.  Its moderate size of 2 to 3 feet tall and wide allows it to be used in smaller areas without having to be so severely pruned every year.

Add foliage color to a small space with Weigela florida ‘Sunset.'  This dwarf weigela offers unique variegated foliage with green centers and leaf margins ranging from ivory to yellow to red depending on time of year.  

During summer, it may also have a scattering of rosy pink flowers. This can be used as a foreground plant as it tops out at 12-18 inches tall.  

If January has you wishing for winter color that won’t overwhelm its neighbors, consider Cornus alba ‘Minbat.'  This compact bushy shrub has vivid red stems that stand out well when planted against an evergreen background.   

White spring flowers of this dogwood shrub are followed by white berries that attract birds to the garden.  Add this to a garden wanting to be certified as providing wildlife habitat.  

Give dazzling color to the late summer garden with Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Blauer Splatz.' (Bluebeard  is the common name). Its compact growth habit as a low mounded shrub lends well to mass plantings. The blossoms have an unusual spidery shape.  

Frustrated with rhododendrons that grow big and cover the windows?   Rhododendron impeditum is a well mannered dwarf staying below 12 inches.  Its blue gray tiny leaves and sapphire blue flowers in April are worth a try!

For an evergreen plant to anchor smaller beds, Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Dainty Doll’ is a great choice.  The dark green scalloped foliage grows in soft textured waves with an irregular spread.  Reaching 3 to 4 feet tall in 10 years, this is a plant that should never need pruning.

 Put away the pruners and go plant shopping or have a designer help select some of these to try in your garden.  

Pam Roy, owner of Planscapes, has been a landscape designer and horticulturist for 30 years in the Northwest. Contact her at 425-252-9469 or view
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