Field of columnar hornbeam.  Columnar Plants for Narrow Spaces.

Columnar Plants for Narrow Spaces

We all have that awkward area in our landscape that is tight and narrow. The space between our homes and sidewalks, areas between our driveway and our neighbor’s yards, and corner spots that need something with height but not much width. Columnar plants, while often overlooked for more floriferous choices, serve a much-needed purpose in our suburban landscapes and offer solutions to many of these problems.

Narrow Evergreen Screens (that deer are less likely to munch on):

There’s no doubt that Emerald Green Arborvitae create the best evergreen screen for narrow spaces. However, they also happen to be the best snack bar for deer. So, while no plant is entirely deer-proof, these two varieties don’t set at the top of the deer food pyramid.

Taylor Juniper

Juniperus virginiana ‘Taylor’

Three tall evergreen trees planted next to blue spruce.
Photo Courtesy Monrovia

Reaching 15 to 20 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide, Taylor Juniper is very comparable in size to Emerald Green Arborvitae. Like all Juniper, Taylor requires sun and, once established, is extremely drought tolerant.

Columnar Norway Spruce

Picea abies ‘Cupressina’

Field of Columnar Norway Spruce.
Photo Courtesy K G Farms

This elegant evergreen is easy to care for with a moderately fast growth rate. Cupressina tops out at 20 to 30 feet and reaches only 6 to 8 feet wide.

Tall and Narrow Deciduous Tree Screens:

Occasionally evergreens can feel a little overwhelming. Choosing a deciduous screen allows you to create privacy during the time of year you spend outside while allowing for more openness during the winter months.

Columnar Hornbeam

Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’

So if you know anything about Columnar Hornbeam, you know that they can reach 30 to 40 feet tall and 20 to 30 feet wide. You’re also thinking that I’m a bit crazy right now for suggesting this, and what part of narrow do I not understand?

When left to its own devices, this hornbeam is far too large for many tight areas. But, if your goal is to block your neighbor without offending them, this tree is for you.

Hornbeam trees trimmed into hedge shaped like castle walls.
Photo Courtesy Martha Stewart

Hornbeam, when planted close together, can make an exceptionally dense screen. And when pruned into an English hornbeam style hedge,  give a jolly good, inoffensive send-off to your neighbor’s view.

Yes, it takes time. It takes skill. And, if you are as lucky as Martha Stewart, it takes a team of gardeners. But guys! So worth it!

Never fear. I wouldn’t dare leave you with that amount of work as your only option. If you love the idea of hornbeam but cringe at the work a hedge requires, give Frans Fontaine a try. This hornbeam reaches 35-feet tall but stays a narrow 15-feet wide.

For all the flower and foliage lovers, Crimson Pointe Cherry (Prunus x cerasifera ‘Cripoizam’) would work for you.

Crimson Pointe Cherry

Prunus x cerasifera ‘Cripoizam’

Row of columnar burgundy foliage trees planted in median of roadway.
Photo Courtesy Monrovia

Crimson Pointe creates a very narrow hedge or specimen at 20 to 25 feet tall and only 5 to 6 feet wide. White flowers are followed by glossy maroon foliage. This ornamental cherry likes full sun but can be grown in partial shade.

Narrow Areas Between Walk-way and Home (Evergreen & Deciduous):

Hicks Yew

Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’

Columnar evergreen planted in front of brown shingle-sided house.
Photo Courtesy Monrovia

Hicks is a dense yew that, over many years, can mature to a height of 18 to 20 feet and a spread of 6 to 10 feet. With a high tolerance to pruning, Hicks Yew is often kept around 6 to 10 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide. When planted close together, this yew makes a terrific hedge.

Hicks works well in both sun and shade. To prevent winter discoloration, place this evergreen in a location protected from winter winds.

Sky Pencil Holly

Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’

Columnar evergreens planted in square terra cotta planters against a terra cotta colored wall.
Photo Courtesy Monrovia

At a slender 1 to 3 feet wide, this evergreen is perfectly suited for narrow locations. This easily pruned shrub can reach anywhere from 4 to 10 feet in height.

Sky Pencil is a zone 6 plant and would work best-planted closer to the city in protected areas as opposed to West St. Louis County.

If you live farther away from the city, a great alternative would be Graham Blandy Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Graham Blandy’).

Rows of columnar boxwood.
Photo Courtesy Greenleaf Nursery

This evergreen is extremely columnar at 2 feet wide and reaches 8 to 10 feet tall.

Fine Line Buckthorn

Rhamnus frangula ‘Ron Williams’

Fine, new spring foliage on columnar fine line buckthorn surrounded by groupings of shrubs.
Photo Courtesy Proven Winners

The fern-like deciduous foliage of Fine Line Buckthorn offers a soft and somewhat exotic feel to the landscape. Fine Line is slow-growing and likes full to partial sun. It grows 5 to 7 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. This columnar shrub is deer resistant.

This Rose of Sharon is perfect for adding subtle elegance. But, if you want flowers and foliage color, you need to try this elderberry.

Black Tower Elderberry

Sambucus nigra ‘EIFFEL 1’

Large burgundy foliage on narrow, columnar shrub.
Photo Courtesy Garden Debut

I’ve touted this guy’s wonders before HERE and seriously can’t get enough of it! Black Tower doesn’t look like much in a container when young and is often overlooked at nurseries. But, with delicate burgundy foliage and pink flowers, this shrub is well worth the wait it takes before reaching maturity. It likes partial to full sun and only gets 6 to 8 feet tall.

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