Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Posted By: in Conifers

Our world can change so quickly. We move into our first home with its tiny yard. We leave a larger home with a large yard that we have loved, for a smaller home with a smaller yard that we will love just as much. There just isn’t room for that 20’- 30’ tree or that large mugo pine. But, what hasn’t changed is our desire to enjoy our yards whether looking through a window, or enjoying a day outside.

It is often our sanctuary, no matter the size. It brings us joy, or perhaps provides us with quiet solitude. We create a lifetime of new memories in it. That is a tall order for a small yard, but one the nursery industry has recognized. The list of semi-dwarf and true dwarf evergreens and deciduous trees is growing at such a fast pace. The choices are absolutely amazing, but as the selection has grown, making the right choices has become difficult at times. No matter the size of your garden, it is still too easy to buy a plant because you just love it only to find that it outgrows its space, or just doesn’t fit. I am quite sure most of us can identify with this experience. So, I want to share with you a selection of my all-time favorites. Plants that I know stand the test of time and provide easy care for years.

Let’s start with three very different and equally beautiful deciduous trees. Let me assure you though, there are so many more to choose from at the nursery.

Full Moon Maple in Container

Acer japonicum 'Full Moon'

One of my favorites is Acer japonicum 'Full Moon'. Although this picture shows what an outstanding container plant it is, it does equally well in the garden. This is an award winning tree, and for good reason. The tree naturally has an upright, densely branched form. The leaves are strikingly shaped, having 7-11 lobes. It thrives in part shade to shade and will require little to no pruning due to its natural eye-catching form. It is a very slow growing tree, taking years to reach 8’-10’. Another important attribute is its incredible fall color, turning the most amazing shades of red with the display lasting for weeks as this treasure holds on to its leaves long into the fall.

Zone – Hardy to Zone 5

Water needs – Even moisture

Sun requirements – morning sun, afternoon shade, will tolerate full sun with enough moisture, but watch for leaf burn

Height and Width 10’. Given the decades it needs, it can reach a maximum of 20ft high and 12ft wide

Cornus Kousa Wolf Eyes
Cornus Kousa Wolf Eyes

Cornus kousa 'Wolf Eyes'

Cornus Kousa 'Wolf Eyes' has been growing in my garden now for at least 15 years. I have watched it survive, flooding, drought, freezing rain, snow load, extreme heat….the list goes on. It is a true champion and comes through everything nature can throw at it just as spectacularly as the year before. This is a reliable variegated form of Dogwood, now standing at 8 feet high and about six feet wide. I absolutely love this tree. While reversion to green for variegated plants can be an issue … not so with this beauty. Once it finishes flowering, the green leaves accented with ivory along their edges make this tree shine like a beacon in the summer. It handles morning sun and loves even moisture. It takes on a unique pink and scarlet fall color. Its wavy leaves show this tree to its maximum beauty year round.

Zone – Hardy to Zone 5

Water needs – even moisture

Sun requirements – morning sun and afternoon shade but tolerant of full sun

Height and Width to date (15 years) – 8ft high by 6ft wide

Plant with – picea abies pendula – one shaped to keep a low profile

Acer palmatum Twombleys Red Sentinel

Acer palmatum 'Twomblys Red Sentinel'

Acer palmatum Twombly’s Red Sentinel has quickly weaved its way into the hearts of not just the lovers of Japaneses Maples, but the public in general. Who would not love the look of those gorgeous larger red Japanese Maples in a compact, but equally stunning form? It has all the characteristics that you have come to expect from a maple . . . the rich burgundy foliage in the spring to the scarlet red foliage in the late fall and all the other expectations in between. While its overall size is much smaller, it will not make you wait long to be able to appreciate its addition to your garden.

Zone – Hardy to Zone 5

Water needs – Average moisture

Sun requirements – Part sun to full sun Size – 10ft -12ft high 5ft-6ft wide

Plant with – goes with almost every plant in your garden. Try weeping long needled white pines

Pinus mugo Carstens Winter Gold
Pinus mugo Carstens Winter Gold Fall Colour

Pinus mugo 'Carstens Wintergold'

Pinus mugo Carsten’s Wintergold – Pines have been a staple of gardens for decades and are a passion for me, as they are so varied in size, shape, and color. They seem to withstand almost any condition other than deep shade and are considered somewhat drought hardy once established. They are also not picky about soil, growing in almost any medium but very heavy wet clay. There is literally a pine for almost every corner of the garden, large or small. However, none stands out for versatility as much as this little gem. This shrub is considered by many to be one of the best winter gold pines available. If you are shopping in the late spring or summer look for a deep medium green shrub. If you are shopping in the fall, look for a butter yellow shrub with green hues deep in the center. It is almost magical to watch it warming into a butter yellow for the winter year after year. It is a true dwarf in that it puts on less that two inches of growth per year. The shrubs shown in these photos are 8 years old now and have never been pruned.

Zone – Hardy to Zone 2

Water needs – Average to light moisture once stablished

Sun requirements – Full sun for best color

Size – 18in-24in high 18in-24in wide

Plant with or near – picea procumbens glauca pendula
Chamaecyparis obtusa Nana Gracilis

Chamaecyparis obtusa nana gracilis

Chaemcyparis obtusa nana gracillis is another award winning plant pick. It has been gracing our gardens for over 150 years, adding a naturally sculpted look without a pruner ever touching it. It has dark green foliage with a fan-like layered look, putting on growth in an irregular but eye-catching manner. There is little to say about this treasure as it speaks for itself once you see it. There are several different cultivars that have varied applications for your garden. This is an easy choice for the smaller yard. Bu,t look for this plant in gold hues too – known as Chaemcyparis obtusa nana gracillis aurea.

Zone – Hardy to Zone 5

Water needs – Average to light moisture once stablished

Sun requirements – Full sun to part shade

Size –6ft high 4ft wide

Plant with – weeping burgundy Japanese maple

Nandina domestica Gulf Stream

Nandina domestica 'Gulf Stream'

Nandina domestica Gulf Stream is not what you typically think of when you mention evergreen shrubs, but it is in a class all its own. Also known as false bamboo, please do not let the nickname fool you. It is nothing like the running bamboos many of us picture. It isn’t even in the same family. It is only due to the look of the foliage that it has acquired this misnomer! This is truly one of the most versatile and beautiful evergreen shrubs to have in your garden, with leaf color ranging from bluish-greens, oranges, golds, to reds, and bronze. This is a tough little plant, going so far as to be planted en masse in city boulevards. But it is just at home in your garden. It also makes a great addition to your winter container planting.

Zone – Hardy to Zone 6
Water needs – Drought tolerant once established

Sun requirements – Full sun to light or open shade

Size –3ft high 3ft wide

Plant with – Juniper Bluestar or Pinus Slowmound

As always, call ahead if you are interested in any of these plants as our selection is always changing!


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