Small wonders: Just the right height

Small wonders: Just the right height

The “in-between” plants are a sometimes overlooked component of a well-designed landscape. Small shrubs no more than two to three feet tall, these ‘tweens’ can fill in holes and form backdrops for flowering bedding plants. Mature gardens can look like they’ve gotten a full make-over after a few, well-placed small shrubs are added.

Many plants can add richness, color and texture to a garden, but we’ve chosen a few “small wonders” that work in the Rogue Valley. Hostas come in 2,500 varieties, grow in shade and most varieties thrive in six hours of sun. You can find the plant in a bewildering assortment of colors from blue through golden and variegated. Although planted for their foliage, most hostas produce flowers in colors from white to lavender, and some newer hybrids produce quite large flowers.

“There are a lot of different varieties of low growers,” says Steeley Scofield of Scofield Landscaping in Jacksonville. “Heather is nice—there’s a good variety of color. Cotoneaster is almost a ground cover, but you [can] get a lot of height out of them. Dwarf boxwood is good, and I really love dwarf nandina. It stays under 18” and has good color--reds, yellows and greens. And I like moss pink, kind of a mounding, grassy little shrub, great contrasted with dwarf azaleas.”

“I try to choose varieties that will give interest year round,” Scofield adds. “You don’t want it boring in winter.”

Coral Bells (Heuchera sanguinea) are another good choice. Most are less than 18 inches tall, and they have the advantage of tolerating poor soils, summer heat and droughts. Again, they come in a dizzy array of foliage colors and a variety of flower colors.

Dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii) has tiny white blooms with a lovely fragrance and distinctive leaves that turn yellow, orange and red in fall. Another dwarf, a forsythia, ‘Arnold Dwarf,’ has yellow flowers like its larger cousins which can be forced in spring but also has bronze leaves for winter color.

Lace Shrub (Stephanandra incise ‘Crispa’) offers large bright green leaves (similar to maple) on graceful arching branches that turn reddish purple to red-orange in fall. A bonus is its yellow-white flowers in spring. Another plant with three-season interest is sweetspire, (Itea virginica ‘Sprich’) a small mounding plant that is covered in fragrant white blossoms in spring and brilliant scarlet leaves in fall.

“[Low shrubs] are used for variety and texture,” says Tiina Beaver, Landscape Designer with Galbraith & Associates of Medford. “You want a variety of heights and leaf shapes. You can use a whole swathe to create vistas and draw your eye to a feature like a statue. Sometimes people forget about them and you have gardens that go from lawn to low annuals to tall bushes. It’s jarring. They help create harmony in the garden.”

Something to think about.

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