Betty Montgomery: Find the perfect trees for small spaces

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Whether you have recently downsized or wanting to landscape your new office building or you just don’t have space for a large tree, there are many slim trees perfect for those challenging spaces. Space is at a premium, and today, more and more people who want a lovely landscape with trees are dealing with spaces that are challenging. Narrow trees might be just what you need.

Patio homes, retirement communities, or just neighborhood homes that have been built in the past couple of decades have limited space in front, back and or side yards. Using the same trees that were used when we had larger spaces can be a little challenging. The typical oaks and maples are too large in many cases.

Trees are like people: They come in all shapes and sizes. You need to know what shape you will need for the space in order to select the tree to be a perfect fit. When choosing a tree, make sure you know the mature size and profile.

Today, there are many choices in trees when it comes to finding the right shape tree, both deciduous as well as evergreen. Trees can be used as a narrow vertical screen where you desire to create a visual barrier and to construct a privacy screen from neighbors or where you want a narrow tree in the back corner of your lot. Think through what purpose you want to accomplish.

Plant experts are on the lookout all the time for narrow trees and there are many beautiful ones you might want to consider. These can be used in those tight places or back yard where you need something tall, but you do not want to have to constantly prune it to keep it narrow.

When selecting these narrow specimens, be sure to select one that does well in your area. Look at the mature size of the tree and even though some are labeled as narrow, if your space is really tight, you will need to be sure the mature size is still narrow enough for your purpose.

Here are a few that Bold Springs Nursery in Spartanburg, South Carolina, recommended to me:

Slender silhouette columnar sweetgum is an incredibly narrow form of sweetgum. The parent tree is about 60 feet tall and still remains 6 feet wide.

Pyramidal European hornbeam is a great tree for a narrower space. It is used for hedges too since it can withstand shearing and heavy pruning.

Hassee magnolia is a narrow columnar cultivar of Southern magnolia. It has the traditional large, saucer-shaped, fragrant flowers in late spring and summer that will perfume your garden.

Belle tower sugar maple is a southern Tennessee selection and has adapted well to heat and humidity and is most noted for its narrower than the species habit and upright form.

Columnar Eastern red cedar is an upright columnar form and possibly the narrowest of the eastern red cedars. It makes a great substitute for Italian cypress when designers need a narrow, vertical evergreen.

An admirable new Japanese maple that is easy to find is Tsukasa silhouette. This plant has a narrow growth habit that is just right for a lovely landscape setting. It has brilliant red fall color and lovely blue-green foliage.

Regal prince oak is a cross between our swamp white oak and English oak. The result is a narrow oval-shaped landscape tree with clean handsome dark green foliage.

Honeylocust street keeper is a thornless, upright and narrow growing selection of honeylocust that has been tested to grow from the mid-Atlantic to the great lakes.

A few narrow evergreens that grow well in cooler climates are Iseli fastigiate blue spruce, which will fit those narrow spaces, as will the upright Eastern white pine and skyrocket Rocky Mountain juniper.

There are many more narrow trees that are grown today. Your garden center might have to order them, but they are worth the wait. I have seen some lovely landscaped areas that have used narrow trees and they were well done and looked great. I urge you to look for some of these if you need to fill in areas with slender trees.

Betty Montgomery, author of a “Four Season Southern Garden,” is a master gardener. She can be reached at BMontgomery40@gmail.com.