Dwarf Shrubs - A Good Choice For The Yard And Garden
Besides contributing greatly to many landscaping schemes, dwarf shrubs have a few other advantages to offer the gardener. The term dwarf shrub can be somewhat subjective, as one can often find plants described as dwarfs that appear to be anything but. A tree may typically reach 80' in height, and a variety of that tree which only reaches 25' is at times referred to as a “dwarf”.
Four Feet, Give Or Take - Just so we are on the same page on the subject, let's define a dwarf shrub as one that either grows to no more than 4' high, or can easily be pruned back to that height without destroying its appearance. Four feet isn't a severe limitation at all, as there are a variety of shrubs, some of which are evergreen, some of which are flowering, and some of which are both, which fit nicely into our 4' “rule”.
Most true shrubs are woody plants which are either evergreen, or in any event the branches do not die back during the winter season. One exception would be the hydrangea, which is often cut back to ground level, or nearly so, but springs back every year, and certain varieties of Spirea, whose branches die back, but grow back quickly the following spring Besides their general attractiveness as landscaping choices, most shrubs are very easy to maintain. All one really has to do is plant them properly, hole size, initial watering, etc., and place them in a location where they'll do well. Some dwarf shrubs prefer full or partial sun, others like in the shade. Few however like deep shade, but if one looks hard enough, a shrub that will do well in the darkest part of your yard can probably be found.
Shrubs are usually low maintenance plants, even more so than their taller cousins. Many do not require any pruning at all, and for those that do, it's not necessary to get a ladder to do the task. While shrubs need water as much as any plant does, their needs are often quite conservative. One can devote one's garden watering time to the annuals and bedding plants for the most part, and just give the shrubs a good soaking periodically.
If you don't presently have dwarf shrubs in your yard or garden but would like to consider getting one or more, here are a few ideas to help you get started. All of these are very attractive and quite hardy.
The Spirea Species - We'll start with the Spirea species, which is made up of several varieties. Some are true dwarf shrubs, and those which are not can usually easily be pruned back to around 4' in height. Spirea Vanhoutii is one of the most beautiful varieties of the species, with graceful drooping branches loaded with white blossoms during the early summer. The rest of the growing season Spirea Vanhoutii, a deciduous shrub, offers luxuriant green foliage. Since it can be somewhat open at its base, the shrub is a great place for the family dog to lie or hide away during a hot summer's day.
Another variety of Spirea which has white flowers is Spirea Opulifolia Aurea. The difference here is its leaves have a definite yellow color rather than green. If it's red flowers you're after, consider spirea Billardi, which features blossoms varying from reddish to rose. This particular variety is noted for its long blooming period, often being in full blossom for most of the summer. Billardi is a Japanese species, and is one of the true dwarf shrubs within the Spirea species. Spirea bushes are also available featuring blue flowers and pink flowers. There are several varieties which will die back to the ground in the event of a frost, a somewhat unusual characteristic for the Spirea bushes, but they always bounce right back the next spring and are fully in bloom by the time summer rolls around.
Other Favorites - The Viburnum, more commonly known as the snowball, is another popular shrub. Some snowball varieties can grow fairly large, almost to the size of a small tree, and the Viburnum in general is subject to several insects which can make its appearance unattractive. One variety however is the Japanese Snowball, Viburnum Plicatum, which is a dwarf shrub, and quite resistant to attacks by insects. The Forsythia is another favorite. Many times a Forsythia, if left unchecked, can grow to from 6' to 8' in height. It is easily pruned to a lower height though. The Forsythia, while not requiring a great deal of maintenance does tend to sprout suckers continuously, which should be pruned back regularly to preserve the looks of the plant.
Another attractive species is the Weigela. One variety, Weigela Nana Variegata (Dwarf Variegated Weigela), is one of the most attractive and unusual dwarf shrubs one will find anywhere. It has pink and rose blossoms, and the leaves are a variegation of yellow, green, and pink.
The list could go on and on, but these are a few of the dwarf shrubs that most gardeners would almost certainly be very pleased with.