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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - August 14, 2013

From: Staten Island, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Dwarf, Evergreen Shrub Suggestions for Staten Island
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I had two rows of bushes in the front of my house. The back row of bushes is what is commonly known as a hedge. Unfortunately due to Sandy I lost the front row of bushes. Please help me, I am in contact with someone that is going to remove and replace this row. I would like an evergreen or a shrub that is dwarf about two to three feet high that is hardy and low maintenance and will stay green all year round. We live in Staten Island, N.Y.

ANSWER:

The first place to go to find a list of potential plants is our Native Plant Database. Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.
Under Combination Search, select the following categories: State – New York, Habit – shrub, Duration – Perennial, Leaf Retention – evergreen, Light Requirement – Sun, Soil Moisture – moist, Size – 1-3 ft. You can narrow down this search further by indicating blooming time and bloom color too if you like.
These search criteria will give you two shrubs to consider (eliminating Kinnikinnick which is too short). Follow each plant link to our webpage for that plant to learn its growing conditions, bloom time, etc. You will have to determine a "hedge suitability rating" for each plant. At the bottom of each plant webpage, under Additional Resources, there is a link to the USDA webpage for that plant. Take a look there for more specific details about suitability before you put them on your final planting list.

Dwarf evergreen shrubs to consider:

Andromeda polifolia (bog rosemary) A low, evergreen shrub growing from 8 in to 3 ft. in height. The shrub does not have many branches, but many shrubs will grow together to form a clump. The small, firm, narrow leaves are blue-green. Leaf margins roll under. Several small, bell-shaped, pink or white flowers occur together in a curved umbel at the tip of a branch. Demands strongly acidic, moist soil. All parts are poisonous.

Ledum groenlandicum (bog Labrador tea) A low, evergreen shrub with densely hairy twigs and rounded, terminal clusters of white flowers. Rusty labrador-tea is a small, globular, broadleaf evergreen shrub, to 3 ft. tall, with a picturesque habit created by many erect stems and upright, spreading branches. The smooth, slightly cracked, bark is coppery-orange to reddish-brown. Thick, glossy, narrowly elliptic leaves are aromatic. Upright, bell-shaped flowers comprise flat-topped, terminal clusters.
This northern shrub, typical of acidic, boggy areas, can easily be recognized by the woolly brown undersurfaces of its leaves. A tea can be made from the leaves, as was done during the American Revolution. In northern Canada, the plant is known as Hudson’s Bay Tea. Ideally grown in acid, wet to moist organic soils. A slow-growing, short lived shrub that demands acid soil. All parts are toxic.

Dwarf deciduous shrubs to consider:
Betula nana (dwarf birch)
Rosa carolina (Carolina rose)
Vaccinium uliginosum (alpine blueberry)

 

From the Image Gallery


Bog rosemary
Andromeda polifolia

Bog rosemary
Andromeda polifolia

Bog labrador tea
Ledum groenlandicum

Bog labrador tea
Ledum groenlandicum

Carolina rose
Rosa carolina

Alpine blueberry
Vaccinium uliginosum

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