Friday, June 8, 2012

Small Plants making a BIG Impact

Did your realtor describe your lot as a postage stamp?  Never fear, you can still have a wonderfully diverse garden packed with variety and beauty!  As homes have become bigger, lawns and gardens have become smaller.  That doesn’t mean your garden can’t make a big impact.  Plant Breeders have bred many of our favorite varieties to fit into these smaller gardens.  There are dwarf trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials in compact versions.  One clue as you are browsing the garden center for your plants is the names ‘Nana’ or ‘Compacta’.  Both of these words are descriptive of dwarf or more compact versions of your favorite plants.

    Loropetalum, the deep purple-leaved shrub that graces many landscapes, looks sweet and tidy in the garden center, but most varieties are vigorous and can grow quite large in the landscape reaching 8 or even 10-15 feet in height and usually 6-8 feet in width.  ‘Daruma’ is much more restrained at 4-5’ tall and wide and even could be used as a foundation plant.
    Magnolias, stately plants evocative of sprawling southern plantations, are much too large for most suburban landscapes.  While the species and most of its cultivars can reach over 30 feet tall, ‘Little Gem’ is narrow and reaches an ultimate height of only 15-20 feet.
    Butterfly bushes are a favorite flowering plant, blooming from the beginning of June on until frost and can get quite large and rambunctious in most of the varieties available.  With some breeding work performed at NC State University, we now have a few well-behaved varieties available.  Blue Chip has lavender-blue flowers and Purple Haze has purple flowers and both reach a mere 2-3 feet tall and 3 feet wide.
    Ornamental Grasses often have the reputation of being space hogs in the garden but there are dwarf versions of two of the most popular grasses.  Dwarf Maiden grass, Miscanthus ‘Little Kitten’ is a mere 3 feet (a bit more when flowering).  Dwarf Fountain grass, Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ cuddles nicely in any size perennial bed at 2 ½ ft tall and wide.
    Most conifers are handsome evergreens, and many, like Japanese cedars reach 30 or 40 ft tall.  Luckily, those of us with modest sized lots can enjoy the dwarf versions of these giants.  Cryptomeria ‘Elegans Nana’ and ‘Globosa Nana’ top out at six and four feet, respectively.   Elegans Nana is fine-textured and slightly irregular-shaped.  Globosa Nana is neatly globe-shaped and makes an elegant foundation plant.
    Perennial favorites have also been bred and selected for our space-challenged gardens.  Some of the best include: Monarda ‘Petite Delight’, dwarf bee balm;  ‘Little Joe’ Joy-Pye weed; ’Kim’s Knee High’ Coneflower; and ‘Walker’s Low’ Catmint, Nepeta.
    Plant breeding and selection continues at a faster rate than ever as plant introduction companies race to have the first, best new varieties available on the market.  Keep an eye out at Kiefer for the latest and greatest in dwarf plants.  If you have a smaller yard, yet desire a beautiful and diverse botanical display, we love a challenge!  Come out and let us help you get more from less!

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