Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Smaller Yards Need Smaller Plants


As urbanization takes on a life of its own, home builders are faced with the need for smaller homes on smaller lots.  Homes are spaced closely, and attached homes have even less outdoor space.  Condos, and semi-attached homes still need to feed the need for outdoor spaces.  Patios and yards with limited green space have made small plants a must-have and the nursery industry is stepping up to offer some great options.

This patio is enclosed for a private space for this homeowner, but notice the neighbors just over the wall.  Screen plantings are useful here, but typical plants may outgrow the space.  Dwarf varieties will serve the purpose and allow the space to function as a gathering place. 

Here are a few of the many varieties of dwarf plants that may help landscape a small space. 
Small shrubs mature size is usually about 5 feet, and dwarf shrubs mature at about 3 feet  at most.  These mature elements can be very important detail when designing a small garden.   
This Blue Shag Dwarf white pine has blue-green long, soft needles and it's globe shade tops out at 3 - 4 feet high and wide.  Here the Blue Shag is flanked with Elijah Blue Fescue grass clumps that also remain small.
Mahonia aquifolium 'Compacta' is a multi-season plant that just keep giving.  Common name is compact Oregon Grape Holly. It stays small at 2 - 3 feet. This low maintenance  shrub has new leaves with a bronze/red color and turns to a green during summer.  Fall leaves turn a purple/red color and remain all winter. Birds are attracted to this Grape Holly berries and it is deer resistant.  This shrub does well in containers, too, and can be a nice potted plant on the patio.  Grape holly is hardy in Zone 5a - 9b.
Many small gardens need tall plants to expand the view upward.  Here, conifers are placed against the backdrop of a wall.  Pruned varieties have a stem that extend the foliage up, and visually keeps the space from feeling crowded. 

These ground covers spread and droop along the ground. Both are thyme - the top one is Archer's Gold Lemon, and the lower picture is Wooly Thyme.  The texture of these plants is small, and dainty and does not overtake the small space.  Also, since this is a small seating area, the luscious aroma of thyme will permeate the area and create another pleasant feature of a small garden.
Keeping a small space tidy could become difficult if leaves drop, or petals fall on the patio or deck. Dwarf English boxwood is an evergreen shrub that adapt well to containers or small spaces, and except for a nip or snip occasionally stay neat and tidy. 

English Boxwood are hardy in Zone 6 - 8 and grow to about three feet tall.  
A pretty flowering shrub that stays small is a Regent Serviceberry.
Regent Serviceberry is a compact shrub with bluish-gray foliage and white blooms in early summer.
Great fall color and edible fruit make this plant pretty for three season each year. This shrub grows up to 4 - 6 feet so it may not be suitable in a really small patio. 
Juniperus squamata 'Meyeri' is a drooping variety that only grows to 3 feet.  Ideal for evergreen color in a small garden.  The cool blue color is spectacular, and this juniper is hardy in Zone 5 - 8. 
Many shrubs are available in compact varieties.  Local garden centers and nurseries will have many choices.  Keep in mind the mature size of any plant that you may purchase.  Keeping size manageable in a small space will enhance the feeling of a coziness, and will keep maintenance to a minimum.  More time to relax in a small garden.

I have highlighted other small plants in a post and you can see them here.
Just because our outdoor space is small, does not mean we can not have a lovely, relaxing garden to enjoy.


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