Dwarf Shrubs

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Most of us tend to think of shrubs as convenient and compact bushes or ornamental trees for the garden. And that they are, but shrubs for the most part will grow fairly extensively. Three hundred year old boxwood bushes, for example, can get as high as eight or more feet. Azaleas will grow leggy as they approach five feet.

For the home gardener, this means a lot of tending, primarily pruning once or twice a year, carefully. Even so, shrubbery can get out of hand in just several years, depending on the species and variety. The more carefully you read on maximum growth under ideal conditions, the better off you'll be. Going with the dwarf varietals is often a good choice, and not too limiting in garden design.

Strictly defined, dwarf shrubs top out at about two to three feet. This makes them ideal for situations where height (or lack of it) is critical--under windows, for example, or under ornamental trees, around the edges of tennis courts, within flower beds, and the like. Not only do they entail less careful pruning, but they tend to be denser in both foliage and blooms. Plant with plenty of room between plants unless you're sure you want a thicket hedge.

Outstanding Low-growing and Dwarf Shrubs

Leadplant (Amorpha canescens) might not spring to mind for a foundation planting, but this almost trouble-free shrub is worth considering. It does well in poor and dry soil, produces blue clustered flower spikes in high summer, and is a fine choice for borders. Bronx forsythia is a great choice if you're partial to your spring yellows. The glossy evergreen leaves of Irish heath (Daboecia cantabrica) contrast nicely with flowers that range from purple to white and last the full summer.

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