No Trim plants needed

cltroses(Scott in 7b NC)February 6, 2011

Hi. I love in Charlotte, NC (zone 7b). When I built my house, I used a landscape designer for a yard. I knew what roses I wanted, but took his advice on the other plants. Unfortunately, everything he recommended has become huge, and all I do is trim back "shrubs". Plants he said would stay small like Rosecreek Abelia are huge, and by the time I trim everything back it looks like squares and circles. Other plants I have that I want to get rid of are Viburnum Tinus Compacta (Spring bouquet), tall grasses, and some Boxwoods. All of these shrubs are either along my foundation or fence line. Can anyone recommend some plants that stay fairly small (no more than 3' high at maturity) and do not require annual shearing and trimming? I want a more natural looking landscape and not formal shrubs. Maybe like a Muli Pine or something like that? Any advice is appreciated!


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I'm from the Midwest so I can't recommend shrubs for your area, but NC State has put together a list of small shrubs for the North Carolina.

Here is a link that might be useful: Small Shrubs for North Carolina

    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 5:12PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

A couple of thoughts:

First, you don't say how many years have passed. While it is possible your landscape designer made bad choices, it is also possible that your landscape installation has simply outlived its life span. Plants do get to a point where their root mass is so big that they can put out an amazing quantity of growth each year, impossible to keep up with. So maybe your landscape plants are simply due for replacement, not bad choices in the first place.

Second, there are ways to trim and prune that do not generate squares and circles. You might look into a good pruning book first to see if you can get more natural looking results with the plants you have. But it's often best to start that from the beginning rather than having to rejuvenate an old plant. That said, sometimes plants just are too vigorous for a spot (see first point above).

In summary, if you like the plants you have, you could even consider a new one of the same plant with more naturalistic pruning from the outset.

Third, no plant "stays small" but there are some that grow more slowly than others and thus let you have a more natural look. Ironically, these often come from the most unnatural of plant forms, the carefully selected dwarf forms of regular plants. The most enjoyable family in my opinion are the dwarf conifers. You might enjoy spinning around the conifer forum here on GW for an introduction to these. They are not always readily available at local nurseries, but perhaps by mail order, in which case you will have to buy small.

Among deciduous shrubs, the only one I can think of that grows very slowly is Fothergilla, at least it is slow for me. So much depends on the exposure the plants will receive, and I don't know your climate. Others may stay low but have other disadvantages, eg suckers or something equally annoying. Japanese maples may be a good family to investigate.

There are many slow-growing rhododendrons and they can also be pruned into attractive shapes. Again, a pruning book would be a good guide.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 6:02PM
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cltroses(Scott in 7b NC)

Karin and Theresa, thank you so much for your feedback. I really appreciate it. The list of short NC landscape plants will really come in handy. I only landscaped the yard in 2005, and it seems like everything I have is very high maintenance, and I'm lookign to simplify. Thanks again!


    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 8:35PM
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