I have a 10 ft by 10ft open square on my front yard, full sun, that I want to plant a single shrub or tiny tree. I would prefer a shrub that doesn’t need pruning as I like natural shapes and I do not want this to grow too tall. Five feet maximum, three feet perfect. Peterborough Ontario, southern exposure. I would love it to be unusual and flashy!
What a pleasure to go on a hunt for a flashy, dwarf specimen shrub!
Remember when you are searching for any plants online or in your local garden centre, the height and width given are typically the size at 10 years. While it is possible to purchase a ‘mature’ shrub, a younger shrub will be easier to plant, will settle in more readily and will be cheaper.
Thanks for providing your location so I know the plant hardiness zone you are in. All of my recommendations are hardy in your 5b zone.
Here are some shrubs to consider. In each case, I’ve provided a link to more information on the plant.
Tiny Wine Ninebark – Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Tiny Wine’
Tiny Wine is a dense, upright shrub with a mature size of 3-4 feet and a similar width. It has very dark maroon leaves and many, blush pink flowers in the spring. Thrives in full sun and tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. It can be pruned to rejuvenate but with it’s small size this shouldn’t be necessary.
Mount Airy Fothergilla – Fothergilla gardenia ‘Mount Airy’
This shrub grows 3-5 feet tall with a spread of 3-4 feet. It has an upright form, bottle-brush spikes of tiny white fragrant flowers in the spring and outstanding fall red-orange-yellow foliage. It prefers moist, slightly acidic soil but can be grown successfully in average, medium moisture well-drained soil. Fertilize with lots of compost.
Compact Korean Spice viburnum – Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum’
Compactum is a dwarf form of the Korean Spice viburnum. It grows to only 3-4 feet high with a mounded form. Like the species, it has lovely 2-4 inch snowball-shaped, pinkish-white flowers in the spring with a wonderful fragrance. The gray-green leaves turn a beautiful wine-red in the fall. Grows best in full sun with medium moisture requirements.
Aphrodite sweetshrub – Calycanthus floridus ‘Aphrodite’
Aphrodite sweetshrub is a smaller cultivar of Carolina allspice, a native of the south eastern U.S. It has an upright form with a mature height and spread of 4-6 feet and bright red flowers. The 2 inch wide flowers with unusual strap-like petals have a sweet, fruity fragrance. The showy, brown seed capsules remain on the shrub into the winter. It grows in full sun to part shade and prefers a moist soil. Provide lots of mulch to conserve moisture.
I hope these plants meet your needs and you are able to use the internet or your local library to check out photos of each. Any one of them will look fantastic in your front yard.