I often fall in love with plants. Then I realize their mature size is more than what a space can handle. The good news is, plant breeders are always hard at work. New plant introductions include columnar and dwarf forms for smaller spaces. If you have an expansive space, no worries. Massive plants that really make a statement are still readily available. But if you have the need for something more petite, there are options for you as well. When it comes to plants, there is something for everyone’s landscape.
Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood)
The dawn redwood is a fast-growing deciduous conifer. When you think of redwood trees you don’t think dwarf. You probably think of the forests in California with massive trees over hundred and fifty feet tall. If you have the space for a larger specimen, consider planting one of the newer cultivars like ‘Soul Fire’ which comes to life in the spring with lime-green needles tinged with salmon and holds a chartreuse hue through the heat of the summer. If you need something smaller, look for ‘Northlight.’ ‘Northlight’ was discovered in Europe as a witches’ broom mutation. While the ultimate size is unknown, experts anticipate the plant will peak at five to six feet tall.
Weeping cherry trees (Prunus subhirtella) have graced gardens for decades. One that seeded into my garden years ago draws visitors into my back yard and demands admiration when in bloom. Recently, I was introduced to a dwarf cherry tree called Zuzu®. Zuzu® (Prunus incisa) maxes out at about eight feet tall and up to five feet wide. A great selection for a small space.
Hamamelis (Witch Hazel)
Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Barmstedt Gold’ stands out in my garden in February when it’s in bloom. In addition to the stunning, long-lasting blooms, the fragrance perfumes my entire back yard. The twelve feet tall and wide form demands attention. If you don’t have room for such an expansive specimen, consider planting ‘Quasimodo’ which only grows about four feet tall.
I recently saw a mature Gingko at an arboretum in New England that was probably sixty feet tall. During the same visit, I fell in love with a dwarf Gingko at O’Brien’s Nursery. ‘Everton Broom’ grows to about three feet tall in ten years. Gingkos are known for their spectacular, yet fleeting, yellow fall color and fan-shaped leaves. ‘Elmwood Pillar’ is another form that grows taller but stays narrow. Whatever space you have, I’m confident you’ll find a type of Gingko that will work in your garden.
Vernonia ‘Jonesboro Giant’ is a perennial that grows twelve feet tall and proves that woody plants aren’t the only ones that offer ‘great and small’ options. For a smaller size, consider Vernonia ‘Iron Butterfly’ which grows three feet tall.
I’ve only highlighted a small number of plants offered in the trade in large and dwarf sizes. I’d love to know your favorites worthy of gardens great and small and look forward to learning what choices you make for your own gardens.