Garden Clippings for July 6, 2019
Sixteen years old and only 5 feet tall. Sounds like a teenager, but it’s a Dwarf Scotch Pine. Sixteen years ago, I planted a cluster of 3, and at planting time they were 2 feet high and wide. Today they are picture perfect and have gained only 3 feet of height.
Unlike what’s required to turn babies into teenagers, my three Dwarf Scotch Pines have never required nurturing. About a decade ago I sprayed them with Malathion to rid them of sooty mold, but for the rest they have been neglected by their owners.
Ever since home landscaping was a thing, horticulturists have been in pursuit of dwarf plants. Oh, we still grow and sell White Pines that reach 100 feet of height and Sugar Maples reaching 80 feet, but these native trees become too large to plant at the house foundation. Nowadays our subdivision sized lots are landscaped with tree and shrub species that have been grown specifically to suit our urban environments.
Almost every plant species is available in large and small sizing. In our front yard we have a group of ‘Sum n Substance’ Hostas that reach 4 feet of impressive height. In our backyard we have ‘Mouse Ears’ Hostas that will never grow higher than a few inches.
Tiger Lilies, which I affectionately call ‘Ditch Lilies’ grow along roadways and ditch banks. Their orange flowers, lasting about two weeks, sway in the breeze, atop stems that reach 4 or 5 feet. Today, the most popular Daylily is ‘Stela D’oro’ which has been cultivated to grow just over a foot high, with flowers lasting all summer. ‘Stela D’oro’ is a top choice for commercial properties where plants are chosen to withstand the harsh conditions of parking lot islands.
Those of us who are over 60 can remember fruit trees in Gramma’s backyard that grew to 40 feet. Today, all fruit trees are dwarf and are designed to grow to a height that can comfortably be dealt with an adult on a step ladder.
Perhaps the largest category of plants that have been tweaked by horticulturists to reduce their size is the big group of dwarf conifers. Eastern White Cedar, which go by the botanical name ‘thuya occidentalis’ is a native Cedar reaching 50 feet of height, is a wonderful evergreen for hedging or large rural properties. White Cedars are an important food source for birds and provide food and shelter for red-tailed deer.
But White Cedars probably grow too big for the average city lot. There are now dozens of new Cedar spin-offs that make good additions to home landscapes, ranging in size from 18 inches to more than 10 feet.
White Spruce (picea glauca) is a native evergreen growing to nearly 100 feet high with a width that can take up most of a small backyard. Horticulturists have arrived at many variations of White Spruce with several traits including narrow, weeping, dwarf, and globe shaped.