Shrubs for Small Gardens

Shrubs for small gardens

For people whose gardening is perforce on a Lilliputian scale, it is still feasible to grow small shrubs which, like their larger relatives, provide colour and beauty, and require little aftercare. Use them as individual specimens in a rock garden, in a mini mixed border or to add attraction to a sunny, paved corner in the town garden. Even more useful, they are easier to grow successfully in all sorts of containers, from the modern, shallow circular pot to the equally modern (but apparently old) Italian lead urns and tanks. Such containers fit in well to the tiny paved garden where there is often only a small area of soil available for a gardener’s planting activities. Further, there is the charm that these tiny shrubs have in their own right; there is a fascination in growing exact but tiny replicas of, for instance, the Lawson cypress, or the purple-leaved Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea.

Of the shrubs already described, the following are all on a small scale: calluna, caryopteris, Convolvulus eneorum, Cytisus kewensis, erica, Genista lydia, Euphorbia species, Hypericum calycinum, Mahonia aquifolium and the Philadelphus Manteau d’Hermine.

Some other small-growing shrubs are described in the following paragraphs:

cistus crispus

Cistus and helianthemum are both low-growing members of the Cistaceae, the former reaching about 3-4 ft., the latter less than a foot. Both come from the Mediterranean region and require warm positions on sharply-drained soil. If they can be protected from severe cold weather and given the sunniest position in the garden, they will produce flowers in profusion throughout the summer. The rock roses (cistus) can be obtained in white, pale pink, rosy-pink or purple varieties, and have open, saucer-shaped flowers about 3 in. across; the evergreen foliage is greyish-green. In the variety Pat, growing to 4 ft., the white flowers with maroon blotches can be as much as 5 in. across; Silver Pink, 2-1/2 ft., is a lovely hybrid; C. crispum has mauve-red flowers and is fairly hardy; C. corbariensis is white and one of the hardiest, to 3 ft.

The sun roses (helianthemums) have much smaller flowers but are produced with great abandon so that they cover the plant, in yellow, red, orange, crimson, white and all shades of these colours. Alice Howarth is a double, mulberry-crimson variety; Bengal Rose is a distinctive colour break; Ben Mhor, orange; Firefly is scarlet and Wisley Primrose, yellow. Flowering is mostly in May and June.

There is a miniature version of Berberis thunbergii, called B. t. atropurpurea nana, growing to 2 ft., with orange flowers in spring, purple leaves and red berries later. It has the virtue of no thorns. B. buxifolia nana, 1-1/2 – 2ft., is a slow-growing evergreen with yellow flowers and purple-blue berries; the evergreen B. irwinii and any of its varieties has yellow-to-orange flowers and rather dark green leaves. It reaches 3 ft. but its varieties are much smaller growing.

Ceratostigma willmottianum has dark blue, phlox-shaped flowers in late summer and autumn, on a low-growing bush to about 3-4 ft., and makes a graceful and airy plant. It has red-tinted foliage in autumn. It needs protection in winter, being cut right down to the ground by frost, but will recover to break again in the spring. It will grow in sandy or heavy soil, doing rather better in the former; it is happy in an alkaline or acid soil.

Andromeda polifolia compacta is a plant for acid soils containing peat or leafmould. It reaches about 8 in. and has flowers like pink lilies-of-the-valley and rather greyish, evergreen leaves. It does well in light shade. Ceanothus thyrsiflorus repens is an evergreen, semi-prostrate form, between 2-3 ft. with Cambridge-blue flowers in May. It spreads eventually to cover an area of about 8-10 ft. There are attractive low-growing cotoneasters, too — for instance C. dammeri which will spread out over the ground and is studded with white flowers in spring, and bright red berries in autumn. The leaves are evergreen. It will grow in light shade or sun and any soil.

As regards low-growing shrubs with pleasing foliage, there are Euonymus fortunei, hedera, Phlomis fruticosa, salvia, senecio and skimmia, already mentioned. Another species of phlomis, P. chrysophylla, is an unusual form of the Jerusalem sage with dull gold, felted leaves, but it does need shelter from the cold, and north-east winds.

Artemisia abrotanes has light greyish-green, feathery foliage; it retreats below ground when the temperature falls but, with luck, may survive the winter. It grows to 3-4 ft., and has no flowers of any moment. A. arborescens is another silvery-grey foliage plant but is rather tender and really does need a warm position for it to thrive.

Ruta graveolens Jackman’s Blue is an interesting sub-shrub growing to 2-3 ft. Its bright blue, dissected leaves are outstanding in the border. It has yellow flowers in summer which can be left on the plant but lessen the quantity of foliage produced. Santolina chamaecyparissus nana is the lavender cotton, with grey-white foliage reduced to rather needle-like proportions, but plenty of it so that it is effective in the mass. Its height is 1 ft. and its bright yellow flowers appear in July. It is evergreen.

For ground cover, Pachysandra terminalis is an evergreen shrub little more than 6 in. tall with a variety variegata, with white margins to the leaves. These are excellent ground cover plants for shade. It will reach 8 in. at most. Salix repens is a prostrate willow, and its variety argentea has greyish, felted leaves. It eventually reaches about 4 ft., but takes its time over doing this, and produces a sort of miniature hummock.

vinca minor

The periwinkles are delightful. So often they are not allowed to show what they can do if they try, but are put in heavily shaded situations and poor soil, which is either dry or lacking in food. If given a good start in life their rambling, ground-covering shoots will travel over a large area, and produce their usually blue flowers throughout the summer in considerable numbers. Vinca major is the common one — and its variety variegata has its evergreen leaves marked with creamy-white. Vinca minor is less rampant and has blue flowers, but in its varieties they may be white, purple, sky-blue or plum. The variety aureo-variegata has yellow blotches on the leaves, and those who like such variegations will find this an attractive little shrub.

Other ground-cover shrubs mentioned earlier are berrying pernettya; hedera, and the heathers calluna and erica which, with judicious selection, will provide flowers most of the year, and give you attractive foliage.

04. May 2011 by admin
Categories: Ornamental Shrubs, Plants, Trees and Shrubs | Tags: , | Comments Off on Shrubs for Small Gardens


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