Good things come in small packages

Gardeners can look for smaller versions of some of the bigger garden speciments

Good things do come in small packages, especially plants. No, I’m not talking about seed packages but varieties of shrubs that have all the great qualities of their parent plants but don’t get quite as big. These new varieties are very handy in small spaces or for those of us who don’t get around to pruning like we should.

I love using Hydrangea paniculata’ Limelight’ in my landscape designs. It can reach a height and spread of 2 m, which makes it a beautiful backdrop or hedge. In summer, full bright chartreuse green flowers cover the sturdy canes. As the season progresses the flowers become dusted with shades of pink. Limelight is a tough shrub, hardy in zone 3.  But not everyone has room for this great shrub once it matures.

Now, Proven Winners have developed the dwarf ‘Little Lime’ Hydrangea. It is also easy to grow, hardy and has those big beautiful chartreuse flowers but only grows to a third to half the size of Limelight. It’s mature height and spread is 1 – 1.5 m. ’Little Lime’ grows in full sun to partial shade, making it a very valuable plant in the landscape.

Another valuable shrub is Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Seward’, or more commonly known as ‘Summerwine’ Ninebark. This Proven Winner plant has been available for a few years now.  Years ago the parent plant ‘Diablo’ Ninebark was a hit in all the garden centers.  Everyone was drawn to the dark reddish purple foliage.    It does however; reach a height of 2m. That isn’t a problem if you are looking for a taller screen. It can easily be controlled in size by pruning but let’s be honest, not everyone gets around to these chores.

‘Summerwine’ rarely needs pruning as it has a natural compact habit of 1.5m height and spread.

The deeply cut crimson –red leaves have a finer texture  than ‘Diablo’ but have the same

pinkish – white button like flowers in summer. They even make an interesting cut flower.

I find the more sun exposure the plant receives, the darker the leaves are. Ninebarks are one tough group of plants; disease and pest resistant, drought tolerant and hardy (zone 3).

If you are just new to gardening or are looking for shrubs that take up a little less of your time I would highly recommend ‘Summerwine’ Ninebark or ‘Little Lime’ Hydrangea.

I will be discussing these and other low maintenance tree and shrubs this Sat. April 28 at 10:30 am.

The free seminar called First Impressions will teach you simple design techniques to create a welcome and attractive front entrance to your home.


Jean Atkinson is a horticulturist with Richbar Golf and Garden and a regular Observer columnist.