The Townhouse Garden

Small Shrubs for Small Spaces

By Susan Stager, Fairfax Master Gardener

Ilex glabra Shamrock

Ilex glabra ‘Shamrock’

As we have been spending a lot of time indoors, we at least want to see out our windows! Many shrubs can reach 6 to 8 feet high or more, blocking your windows. Here are native shrubs that stay under 5 feet in height, to fit under your windows.

The ‘Shamrock’ variety of Inkberry Holly (Ilex glabra) grows up to 4 feet. Inkberry hollies are a native evergreen replacement for boxwood, and they tolerate wet soil. You will need male and female plants to have berries. They can get leggy, showing their lower stems. These could be your evergreen foundation planting (to hide your home foundation and hang your holiday lights) and then plant perennials in front.

Aronia arbutifolia berries

Aronia arbutifolia ‘Brilliatissima’ berries

Red Chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia ‘Brilliatissima,’ is a native alternative to burning bush , an Asian native which can be invasive here. It reaches 3 to 4 feet and blooms with white flowers in April. You will need full sun to part shade for this deciduous shrub. This variety produces more red in the leaves in fall and more of the bitter red chokeberries. If you have more shade, the berries will be more orange than red. It tends to sucker, meaning it spreads by pushing up new shoots from its roots underground, all around its base. This is a good thing if you are trying to fill in an area; otherwise, you need to prune the suckers off to keep it in check.

Ninebark Physocarpus opulifolius

Ninebark – Physocarpus opulifolius

Ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius, is a deciduous native shrub that tolerates part shade. It flowers white and pink in May and June. In fall, you will have yellow leaves. It produces a peeling bark, revealing red underneath, which provides winter interest. The ‘Nanu