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Let's Argue About Plants

May 19, 2023

If you’re looking to add some heft to the spring garden, but don’t want to overwhelm genteel bulbs or ephemeral perennials then dwarf, spring-flowering shrubs are the answer. These little powerhouses are quick to put on new growth in the early part of the season and often sport blossoms in soft hues which will compliment the pastel colors that dominate May and June. Today’s requirements are simple: the shrubs mentioned must stay under 3 to 4 feet tall and wide and they must flower before the summer solstice. You might think this is a tall order for any plant to fill (Peter certainly thinks so) but there are a surprising number of candidates that are up to challenge.   

Expert guest: Julie Lane Gay is a garden designer and horticultural writer in British Columbia, Canada.


Danielle’s Plants

Yuki Cherry Blossom ® deutzia (Deutzia 'NCDX2', Zones 5-8)

Baby Kim® lilac (Syringa 'SMNSDTP', Zones 3-8)

‘Cora Louise’ Itoh peony (Paeonia 'Cora Louise', Zones 4-9)

‘Jim’s Pride’ daphne (Daphne × transatlantica ‘Jim's Pride’, Zones 5-9)


Carol’s Plants

Perpetua® blueberry (Vaccinium 'ORUS-61-1', Zones 4-8)

Dwarf red-leaved sand cherry (Prunus x cistena, Zones 2-8)

Sugar Baby® forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia 'NIMBUS', Zones 5-8)

Double Play® Candy Corn® Spirea (Spiraea japonica 'NCSX1’, Zones 4-8)


Expert’s Plants

Dwarf sweet box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis, Zones 6-9)

Eternal Fragrance ® daphne (Daphne × transatlantica 'Blafra', Zones 5-9)

‘Wabi-Sabi' dwarf viburnum (Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum 'Wabi-Sabi', Zones 5-8)


A link to expert Julie Lane Gay’s article on dwarf shrubs: