Garden Tips: Consider landscape changes with lilacs

Marianne C. Ophardt, WSU Benton County ExtensionFebruary 28, 2014 

I was excited when dwarf re-blooming lilacs were introduced. They grew and bloomed well, but their display was never remarkable and the shrubs were unattractive. Last year, I took out all but one and plan to remove it this spring. This leaves me yearning for a pretty, fragrant lilac that doesn't get too big.

I might try one of the hybrid lilacs in the Fairytale series. Unlike the standard lilacs that grow to a height of 10 to 15 feet, Bailey Nurseries has introduced several dwarf hybrid lilacs.

The one in the series that has piqued my interest is Sugar Plum Fairy. The most compact, it grows to a height and width of only 4 to 5 feet and produces fragrant rosy-lilac flowers.

I always wanted to give mockorange (also known as Philadelphus) a try because when it blooms, it is covered with white flowers that give off a wonderful sweet, orange fragrance. However, the large size (10 to 12 feet tall) of the traditional mockorange has held me back. But the First Editions Program introduced Snowwhite Fantasy in 2011. It is a smaller mockorange, growing to a height of 5 to 6 feet and blooming in spring and summer, producing pretty blowsy 2-inch double flowers.

While smaller than the traditional mockoranges, Snowwhite Fantasy is still too big for my landscape. A better fit would be Miniature Snowflake, a dwarf mockorange that only grows to a height and width of 2.5 to 3 feet with a compact, mounded habit. The double-white flowers are produced in early summer.

There are other small shrubs to consider. I am drawn to the smallest dwarf shrubs introduced by Spring Meadow Nursery. They are great for tucking into smaller landscapes or even perennial flower beds. Tiny Wine is one of these. This is a new dwarf ninebark (Physocarpus) that reaches a height of 3 to 4 feet. It is the smallest ninebark available and is a compact bushy shrub with dark bronze-maroon leaves and dainty white flowers.

Also in the category is a mountain hydrangea called Tiny Tuff Stuff. It grows to a 1.5-to-2-feet tall and wide. The lace-cap flowers range in color from a soft lavender blue to pink to white.

Also in the diminutive category is Spring Meadow's Lo & Behold Pink Micro Chip, a new butterfly bush (Buddleia) that grows to a height of 18 to 24 inches and gives forth an abundance of flower spikes full of tiny pink blooms. This compact little bush is noninvasive, drought tolerant, heat tolerant and long blooming. The flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.

-- Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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