Dwarf Trees Shrinking Spaces

I finally took photos of some plants I’ve eyeballed to and fro some projects and my Saturday morning breakfast taco haunt!

To those without their desert eyes on, they are just shrubs. From 7/31/14 –

Chisos Rosewood / Vauquelinia corymbosa var. angustifolia

One reader, formerly from interior southern California, calls areas of such plants “elfin forests”, forming “chaparral tunnels”. Makese sense, and at 6′ tall, I’m quite comfortable standing next to and especially sitting under such a tree.

While these examples aren’t small spaces, there are constraints of utilities or nearby vegetation. And that’s perfect for dwarf trees – most are large shrubs but gently trained to provide close-range scale and intimacy, even some shade.

each of these pruned into one stout trunk…

Now picture them in a tight space between buildings, by an intimate patio, or anywhere it’s unethical to plant a larger, future problem.

And many of us have done that, though I try not to – plant supplier-stranglehold allowing.

slender, serrated leaves that stay green all winter

Now to another underutilized, also lush plant, which also forms a dwarf tree with just some modest pruning.

Evergreen Sumac / Rhus virens

I cannot see him, but a transient was sitting and resting in the shade of one sumac in this grouping. I tried to respect his privacy, but such a mountain vista…

glossy leaves, next spring I’ll catch it in bloom or with fruit

Both the Vauquelinia and Rhus are hardy to at least 90s and low 100s all summer, dry air, and to cold in USDA zone 7 (arid).  One reader told me they even thrive in extreme Dallas.

Can you think of plants that fit this bill in your area? Mountain Mahogany, Mexican Buckeye, Wax Myrtle, Toyon…


2 Replies to “Dwarf Trees Shrinking Spaces”

  1. People are mostly unaware that medium or large shrubs limbed up are the right thing for small gardens, rather than trees that are going to get too large. We must keep promoting the idea, one garden at a time.

    Good point on peristing, and all we need are the nurseries to start growing those plants in larger sizes for more impact.


  2. You are singing my song here. I’ll try pruning anything into adopting a more treelike form but especially rhus lanceolata. Eventually it helps protect from deer browsing if the tender leaves are up on top.

    I also appreciate how tree forms provide a shaded understory and open up a space. I’ve trimmed up pomegranate bushes, altheas, and routinely strip the leaves off the central “trunk” of polk salad plants to leave it exposed.

    There are so many interesting dwarf trees out there; I just wish they were large enough for more commercial landscapes here! The Rhus is a great one; your technique with the deer is a good one.


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