Herbal dwarf shrubs are suitable for planting in almost every gardening landscape.
Many people who are installing new gardens or fixing up an old one may not know a lot about what’s available and what they should choose for herbal shrubs. Some basic tried-and-true varieties of herbal dwarf shrubs are a good way to get started.
Dwarf shrubs are necessary for basic landscape use, because they offer a transition between the more permanent shrubs that are larger and the perennial choices that tend to change more over time as plants die, fashions change, and landscape changes are necessary.
Basic shrubs tend to stay the standard over time and their dwarf counterparts play that crucial intermediate role. Dwarf shrubs can also work in the landscape as small boundary line markers, anchor specimen beds, and can offer some screening use in smaller spaces as well as many other tasks.
Because of good breeding, many shrubs that are larger now come in dwarf cultivars so when choosing dwarf shrubs you’re going to have a lot of great options. But there are basics that have been popular for decades, some for hundreds of years- for great reasons. Here are those basics and why they continue to be planted in gardens all over the world.
Boxwood shrubs are one shrub that has been in use for literally hundreds of years around the world. They are grown for their tight evergreen broadleaf foliage that takes to shaping and shearing perfectly well.
They are often seen as an edging in English rose gardens, sheared into perfect mounds or squared-off edging. Chances are if you’ve been to a garden with green lush edging, it’s probably been the boxwood that was used.
You can use these dwarf shrubs in your garden for the same reasons. They make great foundation plantings and edging in sun or even partial shade, and are long lived and disease resistant. ‘Sprinter’ is a faster growing cultivar of boxwood shrub that is dwarf, making it suitable again for edges and even containers!
Wintergreen, checkerberry, or teaberry (Gaultheria procumbens) gets only a few inches tall and spreads just a few inches a year.
This is a smaller dwarf shrub that will live for decades and form a wonderful patch. Space several of them a foot apart and they’ll gradually converge into a beautiful ground cover.
This herb has smooth, glossy aromatic leaves that are a rich green in summer. Known as nature’s analgesic, a poultice made from the leaves was used to relieve sore muscles.
Some of the leaves will turn a garnet color from fall to spring, producing a checkered effect. The plant has small, bell-like white flowers in early sumer that are followed by pulpy pea-sized red berries that ripen in fall.
A tea brewed from the berries or leaves has been a traditional home remedy for colds and headaches.
This herbneeds moist, well-drained soil, sun or part shade and open air above it. So don’t let adjacent plants shade it too much or flop over onto it.
From fall to spring, some but not all of the leaves turn garnet, producing a checkered effect. Small, bell-like white flowers in early summer are followed by pulpy, pea-sized red berries that ripen in fall. Tea brewed from the berries or leaves was a traditional home remedy for colds and headaches, and a poultice made from the leaves was used to relieve sore muscles.
Meadowsweet – Spirea
Spiraea shrubs are everywhere and are one of the most widely cultivated and bred shrubs in the nursery trade for landscape use today. If you live in the Midwest, there’s a pretty good chance you have, or know someone who has, a white flowering spirea in the yard- especially around older homes.
These spiraeas were planted when a new family built or moved into a home up to about 30 years ago as a tradition. Some people continue this tradition today. You may have also heard of this tradition with lilacs too. Today spireas are bred to be large like old fashioned bridal wreath spiraeas, but the more popular types are the brightly colored dwarf shrub types like ‘Spiraea Gold’. Chartreuse foliage is topped with luminous bright magenta clumps of tiny blooms over a really long season- many will bloom from spring into fall when they are really happy.
Spirea is also known as Meadowsweet or Queen of the Meadow and its leaves and flowers are medicinal.
There are lots and lots of other herbal dwarf shrubs. Some more unusual yet highly valuable dwarf versions of popular landscape shrubs include the wonderful dwarf crape myrtle, perfect for adding the wonderful aspects of all crape myrtles in smaller spaces.
The wildly popular ‘Chip” series of butterfly bush, like ‘Lilac Chip’ butterfly bush buddleia.