Diminutive Plants that Bring you Joy

karin_mt(4 MT)August 19, 2013

Taking a tangent from the recent joyful thread, I noticed that I get particular joy from small, subtle beauties in the garden than no one notices except me. There is something special about a secret specimen that you have to pause to admire.

I have two new mini-plants this year, both of which were impulse buys when plant shopping with a girlfriend. (always dangerous) I get a kick out of them and I love to point them out to visitors.

Hosta 'Pandora's Box' - I just moved her to fit within a clever little nook within the rock wall. She's just adorable!

I call this one "mini me" because it looks just like a mini version of its heuchera neighbor. It's a silver Korean violet, Viola grypoceras exillis 'Sylettas.'

Hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears' - this little guy is soo tiny! Like 4 inches across at most. It was near death this spring, and I moved it while it had only one tiny spec of green on it. Amazingly it recovered and grew to "full" size this year. It is dwarfed by 'El Nino.'

Got any secret little beauties to share?

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christinmk z5b eastern WA

-Karin, that violet is stellar!!! Just love the silver veining in there. I've got a little V. mandshurica 'Fuji Dawn' that is pretty cute. It isn't terribly vigorous here though, so it has been difficult finding a good micro-climate that is near enough to the front border to be seen.

Thanks for starting this thread- I am also a huge diminutive plant lover. ;-D Tiny shade dwellers especially....

Here is my maidenhair spleenwort fern. Only supposed to get up to a foot tall, but mine has never made it past six inches.

Another cute lil' fern I have (forgot to get a pic!) is Athyrium filix-femina 'Lady in Lace'. Looks like a tiny bunch of curly parsley, lol.

Cardamine trifolium- bittercress. I tiny little woodland groundcover.

Cymbalaria muralis- Kenilworth Ivy. Somewhat vigorous once established, but great for under trees. Uber tiny flowers!!

Epimedium grandiflorum 'Nanum'- fairywings that only get about six inches tall.

My beloved Alpine Bells- Soldanella alpine

Thalictrium ichangese 'Evening Star'- cool leaves man! Pic from last year...

Tricyrtis 'Moonlight Treasure'- tiny toad lily ;-)

Okay, I've got others not I think of it, but had better stop. Think I have already overloaded this thread with my pics as it is, LOL.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 11:21AM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

Your 'Blue Mouse Ears' is adorable. I really love the shape and color of the leaves.

You know, I think I've gradually moved away from some of these tiny guys just because it can be difficult to find a good spot for them where they can be seen and not forgotten. Although, that kind of depends on the season. Spring is an easy time for the small ones because everything is small, but as the season progresses - unless you have a spot devoted to them - they just disappear.

In the process of moving things around this summer, I did kind of develop a special area for some of my smaller heuchera and hosta and that seems to work well, but I only have a few plants and none of them are as small as yours.


The smallest, really special plant I grow is my Tsuga canadensis (Coles Prostrate Hemlock). It's huge in comparison to your plants, but it still is only about 5 inches tall and maybe 15 inches across. And that's after around 20 years in my garden with no pruning.

I have it in a prominent spot by my pond, but hardly anyone ever notices it until I point it out. It's really one of those plants you have to get down on your hands and knees and examine to fully appreciate.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 11:24AM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

Aww, nice pics you guys! CMK, I didn't realize you were an aficionado of the mini plant world, wow! They are hard to photograph well and you've done an excellent job. The alpine bells are especially sweet and the maidenhair is to die for! I just love ferns (mostly because I can't really grow them here). Fairywings is a special one too, those flowers look like little spaceships. I love them all, really!

Kevin, your tsuga reminds me of the gnarled, dwarf conifers you see way high in the mountains. I would love a plant like that. How big was it when you started? I see the teeny little conifers in pots at the nursery and I always stop to pet them, but seeing yours makes me think I ought to really consider planting a few.

All of my mini plants are growing in walls that raise them up so they are less likely to be missed. Although I did forget about Blue Mouse Ears for a whole year once, which is why I moved it this year. Apparently there is a whole series of Mouse-ears-type mini hostas which would be a fun theme to pursue. Perhaps it's the ideal theme for someone who is out of room in their beds.

CMK, if you have more pics, bring 'em on!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 5:21PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

I really need to consider getting some 'Mouse Ears'- too cute! Don't have any place to put them in the garden, but maybe I could house them in containers. This has reminded me I have ZERO mini hostas! Better remedy that by starting a lil' collection ;-)

Okay, just a couple more ;-) These aren't QUITE as teeny as the others though...

Dwarf Ladies mantle- Alchemilla erythropoda. Only gets about 1x1.

Dwarf goats beard- Aruncus aethusifolius. Also a one foot by one footer

Omphaloides cappadocia 'Starry Eyes'. Gets about six to eight inches tall in bloom.

Saxifraga urbium 'Aureopuncta'- mat forming guy with airy flowers and yellow spotted foliage

Solidago cutlerii- dwarf alpine goldenrod. I was rather dissaponted with the color on this guy. Maybe it just looked so out of place with the jewel and pastel shades of spring...

Sedum siieboldii 'Variegata'/''Mediovariegatum' - AND its variegated!!!!

Polygonatum humile- dwarf Solomon's seal. Very diminutive...spreads VERY vigorously though.

Trollius pumilis- dwarf globeflower. Reminds me of a buttercup. Sorry, no good pic of it ;-(

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 10:14PM
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Thank you all for these beautiful pictures. Here is one of my favorites, Heuchera Frost. It gets to ~ 6 inches tall, but has the beautiful violet color and deep veins. It is by my front entry way under Hosta Sagae. So everytime I walk by, this little heuchera smiles at me and I smile back......

Here is the little Frost next to a 2-year old Hosta Sagae. The size of the hosta is larger than the entire heuchera!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 11:31PM
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I did not know how to edit a message already posted. I mean the size of Hosta Sagae's leaf is larger than the entire Heuchera Frost.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 11:36PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

CMK, you really do have a lot of âÂÂminisâÂÂ! I couldnâÂÂt think of one that I had, until I remembered I have that mini SolomonâÂÂs Seal in your last photo. I donâÂÂt really have the type of garden where they could be appreciated. I think they would get lost. I love that little Omphaloides âÂÂStarry EyesâÂÂ, really cute. And the mini Goatsbeard is fascinating considering how large the original size gets. I have viola labradorica which is tiny, as a ground cover under ferns and epimediums under my Japanese Maple, which is very sweet when it is in bloom, but I donâÂÂt have a photo.

Karin, now that IâÂÂm looking at your âÂÂPandoraâÂÂs Boxâ I remember I do have a mini Hosta called âÂÂFeather Boaâ and again no photo. I think youâÂÂre right, they must be hard to photograph. I had that Viola âÂÂSylettaâÂÂs that hitchhiked in another pot, but it died out after the first winter for some reason.

Vivian, that Heuchera âÂÂLittle Frostâ is the smallest one IâÂÂve seen. And the color is really pretty too.

Kevin, that's amazing that your Prostrate Hemlock is only 15 inches across after 20 years!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 6:34AM
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I'm interested to read that Cymbalaria muralis grows well under trees. Here it is essentially a weed species and grows mostly out of old walls. ( As you can tell from its name). Coincidentally Maidenhair Spleenwort inhabits the same type of situation. There's a baby one growing out of the wall of my house by the front door.

I don't have many tiny plants - they don't survive my low maintenance let it do its thing style of gardening. But I always welcome the hardy Cyclamen when they come round again.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 7:48AM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

-florauk, cool shot of the cyclamen with the fern (Dryopertis?)! A tiny one just bloomed out back from the seed I started last year. I had to be down on all fours weeding to see it, lol.

The Cymbalaria seems to do very well in the pockets of soil in-between the tree roots of the sycamore. Epimedium, Japanese painted fern, Vancouveria, and Omphaloides (to some degree) seem to be the only ones that will tolerate that situation.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 1:42PM
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Hardly anything more diminutive than Bluets (Houstonia). I've loved and killed them my whole life, until I tried one from Plant Delights that has thrived and even spread in a diminutive fashion. No pics from my own, but here's the google result:


    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 3:48PM
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christinmk - I have just that situation with almost exactly your list of plants. Never thought of ivy LeavedToadflax for that milieu. Maybe I'll give it go.

The fern is Polystichum setiferum which has the neat trick of producing babies down its fronds. It's evergreen and copes with dry shade.

Here are some more Cyclamen hederifolium - the more common pink this time.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 5:21PM
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I do second the thumbs up for Thalictrium "Evening Star". I more and more like this plant. It really does grow as it seems to come into its own in its 3rd year in the ground.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 6:24PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Oh, where to start?!?! Christin! You've been holding out on me!! Love so many of your little selections.

Here are some of my favorites:

Any and all anemonella. I have about 4 and just stumbled upon a couple others that I may have to pick up.

Double Bloodroot

I may have to get more hepatica. I feel a collection coming on!

I picked up a symphyandra zangezura this spring and really like it. Don't have any photos of that one.

I do love my double trillium. And epimedium which is in the background. I think I have about 15 different varieties now. Can't get enough of those.

I LOVE 'Cooky' Geum (thanks Christin for the seeds!)

I'm sure there are more I'm just not thinking of right now. But I do love those little shade plants.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 6:53PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Wow. Very impressive. I got nothing here, just snowdrops... even a "giant" snowdrop is still just a couple inches tall.
Do small creatures count? Gray tree frogs are my latest garden companions here and based on the number of baby tree frogs showing up I suspect the croaking has been paying off.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 9:04PM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

Wow, this thread is getting better and better! Kato, that tree frog baby is adorable! Awww!

CMK, I have never seen nor heard of Omphaloides. Wow. It's a stunner. Looks so alpine. Also, that photo is so saturated and lovely. The saxifrage looks excellent with the blue oat grass in the background (if that's what it is).

T2D - I didn't know you were a mini-plant collector, cool! I had never heard of anemonella until a few days ago when it caught my eye in the White Flower Farm catalog. That's a very appealing little fellow. The hepatica is another favorite. And the bloodroot, which just looks so special and ephemeral. I can imagine how happy you must be when these bloom.

I can't even imagine having cyclamen just growing on its own like that. I like how they make a little "clique" of flowers. Magical.

Our latest diminutive specimen is the sudden arrival of a whole pile of fawns to our garden. They are all spotted and fuzzy and cute. They aren't afraid of me so we've had plenty of interactions. I just got in from battening down the hatches in places where they've shoved their little noses underneath the netting that is protecting lettuce and peppers. So they got some nice snacks there. I had two perfect heads of lettuce I was looking forward to harvesting for BLTs. Oh well!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 12:07AM
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franeli(z4 NH)

Fun to see so many great mini plants! Thanks for all the great photos. Two of mine:

mountain cranberry

sedum cauticola+thyme

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 3:30PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Franeli, that mountain cranberry is just so pink and sweet, the texture reminds me of my Arctostaphylus uva-ursi. I tried the relative of yours, Vaccinium vitis-idaea, the Cowberry, but it didn't grow for me. The Arctostaphylus does, but it has plain white flowers that you can hardly notice. The flowers on yours really stand out. Are they also called Lingonberries and do you collect them for jam?

That is the sedum you edged your bed of violas with, right? That's also a very pretty combo and excellent with your violas, too. I'm going to have to look for that.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 4:39PM
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franeli(z4 NH)

Yes, those are lingonberries. We pick about 1 cup for a sauce at Thanksgiving.
I have about 10 different sedums,but that one is my favorite. Sedum does well here in my reclaimed gravel+sand pit garden!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 6:57AM
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Here is a pic of one of our Thalictrum "Evening Star" from this year. I love this little plant:

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 3:43PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I LOVE tiny plants too! Great pics here!

Portulaca pilosa and Gibasis geniculata:

Same plants (with Aptenia, which I don't think is hardy here,) with the Gibasis flowers open this time.

Callisia repens:

Wax Begonias:

Oxalis crassipes:

    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 1:05PM
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For most of the year my current gardens are a bit too rambunctious for tiny plants, but in early spring I have tiny species crocuses and reticulated irises.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 2:05PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

-nhbabs, LOVE those little iris too! I've got 'Katherine Hodgkin' and a no name one from Wal-Mart. One of the coolest spring bulbs imo.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 4:42PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Wow, lots of great things here! Reading through this thread, I realized I have more tiny things than I thought!

I just bought two variegated Mouse Ears hosta (I think they are called Frosted Mouse Ears) and hosta Cameo, another mini (which is kinda funny because I also just bought a hosta Empress Wu and Komodo Dragon - for another thread, perhaps?). I was enchanted with them as soon as I opened the box!

I also have some tiny astilbe, whose name escapes me, cyclamen, creeping sedum (one very tiny one again whose name escapes me at the moment). I used to have oomphaloides, but they died out on me. I also love primroses and portulaca, and lily of the valley. Love creeping phlox but sadly it does not love me.

As for spring plants, I do have a lot of the minor bulbs - crocuses, iris reticulata, chionodoxa, scilla, grape hyacinths, dwarf early narcissus, snowdrops, and species tulips, all of which are very welcome sights in the spring! I've got some fall-blooming crocus as well.

Akebono, you reminded me of bluets, which I never would have mentioned because I never planted them and thought they were a "weed". For the 17 years I've been here, every spring they just pop up in a large spot in my so-called lawn. Everyone loves them - even my husband and son mow around them when they mow the lawn. I never knew what they were till about ten years ago when I got curious and finally looked them up.

Funny how walking past all these little things can bring a big smile to your face!


    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 6:05PM
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Hi all!

I saw Franeli's photo and comments regarding the lingonberry. I'm right at the borderline zone for it to grow. My mother tried once and it did not work. I may give it a go. Could you tell me how many mature plants are needed to make the 1 cup sauce? I always buy it for the holidays. If I could grow it, I'd feel like I'd get an added bonus! thanks all for letting me diverge.....

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 7:47PM
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