BY DON HERZOG, MINIATURE PLANT KINGDOM
JUST AS WE use plants and shrubs to landscape our homes and associated buildings, miniature versions of some of the same plants are adaptable to our outdoor layouts. We might use them to mark property such as fencing, to fill a miniature windowbox or to enhance a walkway. Appropriate plants exist for either sun or shade and several also have flowers.
What follows is a list of dwarf shrubs. As any plants, their environmental needs vary. If your local nursery has the full size counterpart, ask about its growing requirements and apply them to the miniature variety. None of the plants is very difficult to grow and most are hardy.
Andromeda polifolia nana (Bog Rosemary) - A low evergreen creeping shrub with small foliage and little hanging, urn-shaped pink flowers. It grows to eight inches tall and prefers semi-shade and a damp, peat soil.
Azaleas - Ko Kinsai is the smallest we know. It is a small twiggy plant with minute foliage and little red-orange straplike flowers. It grows to about six inches high. We grow ours in 100-percent fine fir bark. Prune it as a boundary hedge or remove the lower branches to produce a small tree.
Berberis stenophylla corallina compacta (Coral Barberry) - A small evergreen shrub with tiny dark green foliage resembling holly. It produces nodding clusters of coral-red buds opening in May to bright orange flowers. It grows slowly to eighteen inches high. You may prune it to any shape or size.
Betula nana (Arctic Birch) - A small, deciduous, twiggy shrub with tiny round leaves. It comes from the arctic area, hence the name, grows to fourteen inches tall, and you may prune it to a four inch by four inch hedge or remove its lower branches to make a small tree. It goes dormant in early fall.
Buxus microphylla 'Morris Midget' (Boxwood) - A small, compact evergreen shrub with tiny round leaves. It grows slowly to a height of eight inches. It makes an excellent hedge. Use it along a walkway, driveway, or under a window. You may prune it very tightly and to a very small size.
Calluna vulgaris foxii nana (Scotch Heather) - A compact, tight, three inch tall mound. It resembles moss in the summer and turns wine red in the winter. It produces many tiny urn-shaped pink flowers in the fall. Other varieties are C.v. 'Dainty Bees Minor', C.v. 'Humped Dumpy', and C.v. 'California Midge'.
Cotoneaster microphylla thymifolia and C.m. 'Cooperi' - Both are low, spreading, evergreen shrubs with tiny leaves, flowers, and fruit. Use them to fill or accent an area.
Genista (Broom) - All dwarf brooms have tiny leaves on thin branches radiating from the plant's center. They grow two to four inches high and a foot or more wide but you may prune them. They cover themselves completely with yellow flowers in late spring. They look particularly good with conifers if you want to produce a wild, natural effect. Varieties include G. Dalmatica, G. Delphinensis, G. Pilosa, G. Pilosa 'Vancouver Gold', and G. Villarsii (syn G. Pulchella). Plant them in soil with a lot of drainage.
Hebes and Parahebes - They come from New Zealand and have tiny green foliage. They are ideal for hedges or for representing bushes. They have tiny white flowers. The varieties are H. Buchananii minor, H. Cupressaides 'Boughton Dome', P. Bidwillii, and P. Decora.
Hypericum - All have small leaves and, in the summer, tiny yellow flowers. Varieties include H. empetrifolium, H. Ericaides, and H. Kelleri. All need excellent drainage.
Leptospermum scoparium 'Kiwi' - Has tiny reddish foliage and, in April, a profusion of bright red flowers. Prune the plant to any size or shape. It dies in below freezing temperatures.
Rhododendron - Many species and varieties of Rhododendron produce small leaves and flowers. You may use them as shrubs, hedges, and trees. Most have blue or purple flowers. Some have white, pink, or yellow flowers. In most areas, they require filtered sun or shade and acidic soil. We grow ours in 100-percent fine fir bark. Varieties include R. Impeditum (blue), R. Keleticum (reddish purple), R. Lutescens (yellow), R. Microluceum (white), and R. 'Tweetie' (pink).
Salix (Willow) - Many alpine willows with tiny leaves and flowers make good shrubbery for outdoor layouts. They are deciduous shrubs and stand alone as individual plants or in groups to fill a larger area. You may prune them into a weeping willow. Look for S. 'Boyd's Pendula', S. 'Lohbrenner', and S. Polaris.
Spirea japonica alpina - A small deciduous shrub with small leaves and pink flowers. It grows to eight inches but, with pruning, you may keep it a small, delicate looking shrub.