Shrubs range from ankle high to taller than you are. If you have a small garden, one big bush can overwhelm the area. Go for smaller shrubs and aim for balance. The best shrubs for your small garden depend on the growing conditions you can offer them. Here are the Top 5 great choices for different exposures and soils.
1. Short evergreen shrub – If you want year-round structure and texture for your small garden, pick a short, mounding evergreen that will never outgrow its location. Mops dwarf mugo pine (Pinus mugo ‘Mops’) is a good choice. This mugo pine doesn’t need shearing to stay dense and compact. It thrives in chilly climates and forms a mound about a yard high.
2. Protective hedge material – Firethorn (Pyracantha spp.) has the reputation of being armed and dangerous. It’s an evergreen often used in defensive hedges, with its sharp thorns. Gardeners also appreciate the ornamental value of the red, yellow and orange fall berries. It can grow tall enough to form a real shrub wall. For small gardens, try Tiny Tim (Pyracantha “Tiny Tim), with many of the same attributes but only three feet tall. It has less thorns, and the berries hold onto the branches longer, up through the following spring.
3. Shady business – If your small garden happens to be in shade or partial shade, you’ll need a shrub that thrives without too much sun. Look no farther than popular boxwood (Buxus spp.), the quintessential building-block shrub. Boxwood is easy to grow in sun or shade, and it accepts severe pruning. Some gardeners enjoy creating different boxwood shapes with creative clipping.
4. Sweet smelling small shrub – When fragrance counts, consider honeysuckle. Purple Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica chinensis) grows fast and smells sweet but doesn’t get about two or three feet tall. Expect flowers in late spring. The shrub is decorative even in winter, with its deep purple stem and branches.
5. Shrubs for acidic soil/shady site – Azalea is the queen of the shade garden and it also likes acidic soil. If that describes your garden, pick any variety of dwarf azalea (Azalea obtusum) to ornament your small backyard. These small azaleas stay between two and three feet. Slow growing evergreens, dwarf azaleas flower profusely in spring. Select among pink, white or red-blossomed varieties. A little mulch over the root area gives these plants the protection they need to keep them vital.