What Are Some Good Low-Growing Evergreens For The South?

One sometimes hears landscape people bemoan the lack of low-growing evergreen material, so much needed now for the new types of low-walled homes. There is quite a hit of lovely material, especially among the broad-leaf evergreens, that has not yet been widely propagated and publicized.

A newcomer to the broad-leaf evergreen group is a dwarf nandina called DWARF NANDINA DOMESTICA which, so far as I know, has not been given a precise botanical designation. My plants, said to be more than ten years old, are less than a foot high.

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They seem to multiply rapidly and the small canes give a solid mass of characteristic nandina foliage, although the leaves are much smaller than those of the regular type,

Low Growing Bullies

The low-growing bullies are suited to situations where dwarfish plants are needed. A few new ones have been made available recently. The new yaupon, Hex vomitoria COMPACT, is a semi-dwarf form with a maximum height of about 5 feet, which is attained only after several years of growth.

It is an excellent all-purpose plant. I. vomitoria STOKES, commonly called STOKE’S DWARF YAUPON, is dwarf; and so is another one listed as I. vomitoria nana. Ten-year-old plants of the Stokes variety in the area of Lafayette, Louisiana, have not attained a height of more than 3 feet.

With just a little pruning, consisting of the removal of an occasional protruding cane, these dwarf varieties may be kept down to a height of 12 to 15 inches indefinitely.

Several Forms of Japanese Holly

Ilex crenata, are finding wide use in planting small-home grounds. The varieties convexa, microphylla, and rotundifolia are all dwarfish plants of many uses. Two newer varieties are Helleri and Repandens.

The variety Helieri is perhaps the most dwarfed of all the hollies and is an ideal plant for rock gardens and borders where a very low, compact growth is needed, The leaves are quite small and the growth exceptionally slow.

Repandens is a low-growing, spreading variety with thin, closely spaced leaves. A specimen a little more than a foot high may have a spread of 3 or 4 feet. It has been suggested as a substitute for Pfitzer juniper, which grows too tall for many situations.

Another unusual holly that recently came to my attention is called I. cornuta compacta. The leaves are off the regular cornuta or Chinese holly type, but the growth forms a dark-green mound which is almost a half sphere. Five-year plants may attain a height of about 30 inches with an equal or slightly greater spread. For this, I predict a great future.

Pretty Evergreens

One of the prettiest evergreens coming to my notice recently is a little honeysuckle called Lonicera yunnanensis. It is quite informal in the habit of growth, but light pruning will develop a pleasing semi-formal shape if that is preferred. The leaves are much like those of English boxwood.

Serissa Merida is a nice little plant that I have never seen at a height greater than about 20 inches, although it is said to grow a little higher. The leaves are small, about the size of those of a boxwood hut of a much lighter green color.

There are both green and variegated forms, but the green and white variegated forms are most commonly grown. In early spring the plants are practically covered with a profusion of small, pure-white, bell-shaped flowers. When left unattended the plants are inclined to grow a bit leggy.

Gardenia Radicans

It is not entirely new, but it certainly could be more widely used in the Middle South and Deep South. It is low-growing and spreading; plants no more than a foot high may have a spread of 30 inches or more. Its green stems and narrow deep-green leaves make it an outstanding plant the year through.

The pure-white wax-like flowers which come in spring have the true gardenia fragrance. Gardenia stricta nana is semi-dwarf and upright in growth. It is usually seen at a height of 24 to 30 inches.

The leaves are the same in form and shape as those of the regular gardenias but are much smaller. It seems to be much harder than G. radicans, which may be stiffer from freezing when the temperature drops to around 15°.

A pyracantha recently introduced is semi-dwarf P. yunnanensis LODENSE. It forms a very dense growth but does not send out the long fast-growing canes characteristic of most plants of this genus. It may easily be kept down to 18 to 24 inches for several years.

The new Ligustrum lucidum SUWANNEE RIVER is perhaps the best dwarf form of this species. My specimen, planted in deep, rich soil, has not grown more than three or four inches in three years. It is spreading, compact, and has the dark glossy green foliage common to the type.

44659 by Ben Arthur Davis