Shrubs form a wonderful framework for a border but a small bed can become swamped by vigorous shrubs. Fortunately there are plenty of shrubs that are naturally compact or slow growing; others can be kept in check – and often enhanced – by pruning.
Keep box small by frequent clipping; it is an ideal candidate for informal topiary. Shape it into mounds or crisp border edgings. Hebes are useful evergreens: many are low-growing, even ground-cover plants and fit perfectly into a small mixed border. Hebe “Autumn Glory” flowers continuously throughout summer into fall; cutting it back in spring every four years keeps it in trim.
Don’t forget that lavender is a small shrub that can be clipped into loose mounds which then become fuzzy with flowers over the summer. As it has a tendency to become woody, take cuttings every winter to replace offending plants. Leave rosemary to grow into an informal hedge or choose a prostrate form such as “Jackman’s Prostrate”
THE KINDEST CUT
ABOVE: Both lavender and the silver-leaved curry plant benefit from an annual clipping – lavender in mid-spring (then again lightly in fall, if necessary); cut back frost damage to curry plant in spring.
THE STARS OF THE SMALL BORDER
RIGHT: Hebes are obliging little shrubs, with neat evergreen foliage and flowers that last all summer long and on into fall. Hebe x franciscana “Variegata” is a bushy cultivar that is half hardy.