(Family Features) - Short is in -- for trees and shrubs, that is. New, compact forms of popular trees and shrubs are becoming more available in garden centers and nurseries. There's a good reason for this trend. As yard sizes shrink, homeowners have competing uses for the green space around their homes.
"Though small, dwarf shrubs can have giant effects," says Doug Welsh, professor and extension horticulturist at Texas A & M University. "Dwarf shrubs and trees require less trimming and maintenance while giving your landscape a natural, less formal look," he says.
Here are some of the best new dwarf trees and shrubs available.
"My Monet" weigela. Weigela is a widely grown, adaptable, spring-flowering shrub. It normally grows 5 to 6 feet tall, with tube-shaped flowers in colors ranging from white to red. However, after blooming, the shrub's green foliage is nondescript for the rest of the summer.
That's all changed with "My Monet" weigela. This new variety grows only 12 to 18 inches tall. The new spring foliage is bright pink and blends well with the rosy pink flowers. The leaves mature to green edged in white. "My Monet" makes a great container plant, as well as a colorful addition to the perennial border. It's hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8.
"Covey" redbud. Redbuds (Cercis canadensis) are popular, early-spring-blooming trees. Their fluorescent purple, tiny flowers emerge before the leaves and light up a yard in spring. "Covey" redbud is a weeping form that only grows 8 to10 feet tall. It has a cascading, umbrella form so it fits into small spaces near a doorway or in a perennial flower bed. It's hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9.
"Razzle Dazzle" crape myrtle. Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), or "lilac of the South," is a beautiful tree commonly grown in commercial and civic landscaping plantings. In home landscapes, the mature height tops 20 feet tall, which is often too large for a small yard. Enter the new "Razzle Dazzle" line of crape myrtles. These trees are not only dwarf ("Snow Dazzle," for example, grows only 2 feet tall!), but some are also disease resistant. They come in a range of flower colors depending on the variety, and are hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9.
"Hornli" hydrangea. Mophead hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) are hot. Those old-fashioned plants are making a comeback with lots of new varieties. Traditional mophead hydrangeas feature blue or pink flowers on shrubs as large as 5 feet tall and wide. The new "Hornli" hydrangea from Switzerland, however, features fire engine red flowers on a shrub less than 2 feet tall and wide. "Hornli" flowers all summer and is hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9.
Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized garden writer, book author, speaker and radio and television personality, has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery Channel television networks. He is the senior horticulturist and spokesperson for the National Gardening Association and Chief Gardening Officer for the Hilton Garden Inn.