Would you like to add visual interest and texture to your landscape but don’t have room for another large tree? A number of gorgeous evergreens are available that work well in small gardens. Some are mounded shrubs, and others are columnar trees.
The Great Plant Picks website lists about 40 evergreens that top out at no more than 10 feet. Some are much smaller. Here is a small sampling of what’s available.
There are several varieties of dwarf Hinoki cypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa. All are slow growing and attract attention for their form and texture. Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Split Rock’ is the bluest Hinoki cypress. This compact pyramidal plant has both green adult foliage and blue juvenile foliage. It is an excellent choice for small gardens.
Mountain hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana, is one of the Northwest’s most beautiful native evergreens. It develops into a slender small tree with gracefully layered side branches. It is excellent for creating an alpine look in the landscape. The tree has no serious disease or insect problems.
Most varieties of Japanese cedar, Cryptomeria japonica, will grow to about 10 feet tall in 10 years. ‘Sekkan-sugi’ is an unusual variety from Japan. The foliage is tipped creamy yellow and is most intense when growth is new in spring and early summer. It is a visually dominant tree in the landscape because the foliage color is so intense and shines like a beacon if planted against a medium or dark green backdrop. If you are not a fan of golden foliage this is not the tree for you. Planting with gray-needled conifers will tone it down. Or you could make a dramatic statement by combining it with plants with purple foliage.
The thick, dark green needles of Japanese umbrella pine, Sciadopitys verticillata, are held like the ribs of an umbrella around its stems, giving it a unique appearance. It is very slow-growing and columnar in shape, which makes it suitable for small gardens. It is an eye-catching accent in the landscape. Despite its common name, this is not a true pine (genus Pinus). It has been grown around monasteries in Japan for centuries. This species is the only one in the genus.
Dwarf hiba cedar, Thujopsis dolobrata ‘Nana,’ has unusual bold antler-like foliage. The thick textured leaves are deep green on one side and stippled and patterned with chalky white on the other. This compact, slow growing evergreen conifer is surprisingly tough. It will grow in most soils as long as there is good drainage and will tolerate full sun to shade. It will form a layered mound over time with a low graceful profile.
Sargent’s weeping hemlock, Tsuga canadensis ‘Pendula,’ looks good at all ages. When young it has a mounding habit, with elegantly drooping branches. As it grows, its wingspan increases and its texture varies. It needs plenty of space to develop its pleasing mature shape. It works well in a mixed border with shrubs with larger leaves. It thrives in part shade.
You can find more details about these trees at Great Plant Picks. While you’re there, look at their lists of 900 plants, from bamboos to bulbs, grasses to perennials, that do well in Pacific Northwest gardens.