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Topic: What's your favorite dwarf evergreen?

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Subject: What's your favorite dwarf evergreen?
Date Posted: 2/24/2008 2:28 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 2,433
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I've got a colonial revival revived home (brick, flat, square front with two storeys), and I'm trying to find something to plant on either side of the front door.

My dream plant would be something that reaches a max of 5' (or just super slow growing) and is only 2-3' wide that can tolerate partial shade. Does anyone have any ideas on what would fit that description? I've found a lot of terrific plants in the 2x2' range, but I'd like something a bit taller than that. Sometimes having an image of what you want is worse that the buy-and-plunk method!

Any possibilities would be welcome. :)

Date Posted: 2/26/2008 9:05 AM ET
Member Since: 4/2/2007
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Stacy, I have a similar problem as the entrance to my house stays in the shade most of the day. I'd be interested if someone has a good suggestion for the hot, deep south where I live. A local garden shop suggested I plant camellias (but the ones I've found would overgrow the spot, getting to 10 feet or more in height). He also suggested either a yew or a boxwood. The Buxus boxwood is columnar and gets to about 6 feet in height. They are fragrant, especially when touched, so you'd want to assure you like the fragrance. But I've not found one in a 3 gallon container and they grow slowly. He also suggested a yew. There is one variety that is columnar. They're about the same size and grow faster. I'm still looking.
Date Posted: 2/26/2008 8:47 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
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I'll have to look into the boxwood. I just ripped out 17 of the standard boxwoods so I'm a bit boxwood shy, but a columnar, fragrant boxwood might be interesting. There's a Green Tower boxwood, but I don't see anything about it being fragrant.

I live right outside of Atlanta, so I've got a similar hot, wet summer to contend with.

Date Posted: 2/27/2008 4:17 PM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2006
Posts: 6,362
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I don't know about the more tender boxwoods, but when they say "fragrant," I don't think it's in a good way.  With some of them, it's more of a "what smells like cat p***"?" fragrant.

I think they had some kind planted outside one of my workplaces and I used to wait for DH to pick me up.  It took a long time before I realized what was making that smell.  This was definitely in the north though so they weren't English boxwoods.

Date Posted: 2/27/2008 4:35 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
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Haha. I always thought there were a bunch of cats peeing in the front bed until the boxwoods were removed. I guess I'll have to check around before taking the plunge.
Date Posted: 2/28/2008 9:29 AM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2006
Posts: 6,362
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No, Stacy.  They don't tell you that in the catalogs do they?

That was exactly what I kept thinking too, when I was standing outside that building!  Maybe it's only when they're wet or something.  I have some false Korean one (I think that's what it was) that needs taken out and I don't know if smells like that but it's not really near the house.  I've liked it okay, but no one ever trimmed the winter damage or trimmed it at all and it is wide now and beyond help.  I'm looking for something to take its place too that won't take up a lot of space.

Date Posted: 3/3/2008 5:26 PM ET
Member Since: 7/7/2007
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I personally love Mugo pines  (particularly because I like to say "Moooo-gooooh").  We have one on the north side of our house in Kansas, and it does well.

I asked my hubby, who is a professional botanist, and he recommended these for size and liking partial shade:

  • Dwarf Alberta spruce, with different cultivars which have different looks -- one gets pretty white tips in the spring, etc. 
  • Lots of dwarf varieties of pine -- white pine, scotch pine, etc, all slow growing 
  • Dwarf Colorado Blue Spruce  
  • Boxwood, specifically the variety "winter gem" which gets to be about 4x4
  • Pieris japonica (Japanese pieris) -- evergreen, sort of rhododendron-y with smaller flowers
  • Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel)

If he knew where you lived, he could make more specific recommendations -- feel free to drop me a PM if you have questions on any of these, or where to get them, and I'll be happy to ask him.

Cheers,

Catt



Last Edited on: 3/3/08 5:39 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/3/2008 6:24 PM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2006
Posts: 6,362
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Hmm, Mountain Laurel is our state flower (PA) and it gets fairly large.  It's not generally used in yards (unless someone was naturalizing, I suppose).  It's also poisonous to a number of animals, including sheep (no rhododendrons for me, lol). 

The laurel fields are very pretty but the bloom time isn't long. 

My K-Mart special pine (maybe Mugho) was the only thing that died from my K-Mart special trip, but I think I had it in a bad location.  I bought a pine, another evergreen (it's still out there), the boxwood, and the barberry, all on sale one year when we had a box turtle.  They must be around 15-20 years old now.  I guess if you don't care, they live ;)

I was curious about the boxwood "odor" issue and found this thread to a Gardenweb discussion.  It's on the Hudson Valley (NY) forum:  http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/hudval/msg0918105619415.html

It sounds like the odor is a problem in colder climates and WY was where I noted it.  It's cold here too.



Last Edited on: 3/3/08 6:31 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/3/2008 10:25 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 2,433
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Thanks for the recommendations from your hubby, Catt. I've been looking at the dwarf alberta spruce, off and on, and I've seen some that look terrific and some that look like ugly blobs. I've got a list of mugos that someone recommended for another house, but I never thought of them for the front. I'll have to revisit that.

Laurels get massive here, so that one is definitely out. I live in Georgia; so, if it grows in amended clay, it goes wild, for the most part.

I love barberries. I wish I could plant them on either side of our door, but I think the prickers would be considered 'unwelcoming'! They'd match our 'go away' mat, though...

Interesting...plant antifreeze that smells like pee.

Date Posted: 3/3/2008 11:35 PM ET
Member Since: 7/7/2007
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<<I love barberries. I wish I could plant them on either side of our door, but I think the prickers would be considered 'unwelcoming'! They'd match our 'go away' mat, though...>>

Actually, there is a cultivar of Japanese barberry which doesn't have thorns: Berberis thunbergii  ‘Thornless’.  It does well in Zones 4-8, and most of GA is between Zones 6-8.

Here's a picture of one, but, obviously, they can be kept pruned to a more desirable size: http://www.hort.net/gallery/view/ber/berthth/

It is available from ForestFarm.com, which my husband has used and says they are reputable, with good stock and good quality plants, in case you cannot find it locally.  http://www.forestfarm.com/search/closeup.asp?PlantID=beth056

<<I've been looking at the dwarf alberta spruce, off and on, and I've seen some that look terrific and some that look like ugly blobs.>>

This is probably, says hubby, due to different cultivars (with some cultivars being prettier and less "ugly blob" than others).  "Rainbow's End" is the one with the white tips mentioned in the previous post, but there are others to choose from as well.  Here's a photo of "Rainbow's End": http://picasaweb.google.com/grandviewlandscape/Aug8LandscapeIdeasInTrail/photo#5099076747323158546

You might try a Google image search for "dwarf alberta spruce" and see what appeals, then determine the cultivar.

Cheers,

Catt

 



Last Edited on: 3/4/08 12:01 AM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 3/4/2008 3:35 AM ET
Member Since: 12/7/2007
Posts: 215
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I absolutely adore the acers (maples) & some of them are so exotic & outstanding however they are not evergreen. I am fortunate enough to live near the Siskiyou Rare Plant nursery in Talent Ore & have seen some very beautiful trees here that are not very common at all; I was told that they came here from Portland Ore; you might check out some of the rare plant nurseries in your area just to see if you can find some exotic ones; the strawberry tree is fascinating very unusual bark, which might interest you. Don't let size intimidate you cuz you can always cut away & keep trimmed down but I wouldn't go for one that was going to be huge to start with. Box honeysuckle is nice & can be trimmed down & back at any time; Rosemary's can also be trimmed but am not sure how much shade there is. They might do well, & are fragrant if touched & always react well to trimming; some Tuscon i think can get to 6 feet high but I have never seen one get that high & again, don't be afraid to cut away & shape them; they will love you for it! Wayside has some excellent plants, I would not recommend Autumn Nursery; have ordered from them & had to send back not happy at all with items; Jackson & Perkins has been purchased by Park Seed; excellent plants; but I would really check around a lot before putting something in; if you see a plant you like in someones yard or garden don't hesitate to go and ask, they are happy to help & if they are unsure ask if can take a small cutting to your local nursery & have them identify it for you! We found a great plant this way & we could get it in dwarf size as well (but beware some dwarfs get very much larger than it says they will but again don't be afraid to trim; it doesn't hurt the plant; I am trying to think of the name of the plant it was a fruitless pomegranite; gorgeous plant along a house & I took my sister just to see it & she knocked & spoke with the people there! We took leaf to nursery & walked the acres & found the plant! Ask local gardening clubs & if you have farmers markets where you live you find many items you don't locally see in nurserys like the pink lily of the valleys; go to Master gardeners showing locally & discover treasures you didn't even know existed! What fun & incredibly delightful!

Date Posted: 3/6/2008 7:40 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 2,433
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I've thought about the rosemary. A couple across the street have some that haven't been pruned in awhile, but that look quite nice. The only problem with those is that I'd probably have to constantly have to divide them to keep them narrow enough. That might be a good idea for the corner of the house, though.

I've been looking through catalogs, and it looks like Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil' might be the winner. I asked a lady, locally, who is crazy shrub lady, and she said that it's the most well mannered plant she's ever had. She said that hers stay relatively narrow, don't require any supplemental watering, look good almost immediately, and only require shaping, rather than intensive pruning. They also appear to be pretty easy to come by and relatively inexpensive, which is an even bigger winner. Has anyone seen these?

Date Posted: 3/6/2008 10:23 PM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2006
Posts: 6,362
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It depends on how close to your door they'll be, but there are some barberries that are column-like.  I've been eyeing one of these but I'm worried it will be bare at the bottom.  One of the catalogs had a very narrow one.

I do have Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Bagatelle' planted at two cemeteries and they've been there for a couple of years. This is a small variety and it looks nice.  Some are considered invasive though so you have to check for that too.  There are some small yellow-leaved ones too, but I've never tried those.

I've only seen pictures of the Ilex crenata but then my conditions aren't similar either (well, I have clay, lol).

Date Posted: 3/6/2008 10:33 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 2,433
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I saw a columnar barberry that I would going to grab, but my mother pointed out that it would blend too closely with our shutters and that wouldn't be very appealing. The yellow ones are gorgeous, but chartreuse and yellow look pretty vile against the brick. I'll have to stick with dwarf ones along the sides of the house.

Diana, from what I've seen, the columnar ones are pretty naked on the bottom. I don't know if they've all been the same cultivar, but they're not offensive looking, even with a bit of stick showing through.

Date Posted: 3/13/2008 2:22 PM ET
Member Since: 9/23/2006
Posts: 6,362
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Ah, I was afraid any of the columnar ones would get bare bottoms.  I am looking for something to "back" my flowerbed and I've always wanted something that would be red in winter too so I was hoping to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.  A lot of the barberries get too wide but if there's a big gap at the bottom it will defeat the backing thing. 

I'm probably looking for something that doesn't exist.  We had a red dogwood, I think and it just died although it wasn't there.  I suppose I want a reddish somewhat taller boxwood, lol.  Yes - that is it.  Scentless, please.