Seven Dwarfs for the Landscape

February 11, 2016

Dwarf conifers make excellent additions to the landscape when added to foundation plantings, tucked into rock walls, arranged artistically in ornamental beds, or placed strategically on slopes. Listen to learn more about this multitalented group of plants.

This segment of The Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Musings podcast series was written by George and Becky Lohmiller and is read by Heidi Stonehill, an Almanac editor.


When selecting trees and shrubs for your yard, you might find that by thinking small you can beautify your property in a big way.  Dwarf conifers lend an abundance of shapes, colors, textures and sizes to the landscape and there are so many varieties that even Snow White would have a hard time keeping track of them all.  They are ideal additions to rock gardens and water features, and just right for tight areas where a larger plant would soon outgrow the space.

                        “Coles prostrate” Hemlock is a dark green spreader that can be used as a classy evergreen ground cover or a unique cascading rock garden plant.  Unlike its forest relatives, this rich green ground hugger only grows a few inches high.

If you like the traditional look of a yew hedge but don’t enjoy the pruning that they require, try using the Dwarf Japanese Yew.  They top off at 4’ to 6’, are very dense growing and have large attractive red fruit.

            Pines are among the hardiest of dwarf evergreens.  One particularly striking specimen is the Blue Shag Pine, a globe shaped plant with unusually soft blue foliage.  Its diminutive size, (eventually growing to 6’) makes it an attractive choice for a foundation planting or in a spot where space is limited.

            The Japanese Garden Juniper is a low growing mounding spreader that creates an instant Bonsai effect, making it a rock garden favorite.  Its moss-like green foliage is tinged with purple in cold weather and becomes bright green in spring.

            Dwarf Alberta Spruce is one of the best known and most loved of any little plant.  It has a natural pyramidal shape that never requires shearing.  Grow it in a container, and you will have a living Christmas tree to use year after year.

            Most Arborvitaes are green, and many will soar to 30’ or more but not yellow ribbon.  The slow growing pyramidal shrub rarely reaches 10’ and retains its golden color year round.

            A centerpiece of many gardens, Dwarf Hinoki Cypress will not go unnoticed wherever it is planted.  It grows so irregularly that no two are alike.  Its twisted fern-like dark green foliage creates a feeling of movement even on windless days. 

            Try planting a few of these mighty midgets and you might just start singing Hi Ho, Hi Ho as you go off to work in your yard.


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