l_h_va

Impossible find... a narrow tree/shrub only 8ft mature height

VaLady
last year

My side yard is killing me! It’s small and I know I’m trying to get too much out of it but, I refuse to give up just yet.

The space is 9.5’ wide and runs 18’ long before it widens into the backyard. To make matters more challenging our fence gate is on the property line side, not beside the house, so plantings aren’t able to run along the fence.

I‘m looking for a tree or shrub that is deciduous, columnar, and maxes out at 8-10’ tall. I’m in zone 7a and the area faces west. From my measurements I have 5’ before the gate. The one positive of this situation is that the fence gate opens out to the front yard, so I could encroach on the walkway some. I’ve considered making this gate inoperable and using the opposite gate, my husband doesn’t love that idea though since this one is on the garage side of the house.


Comments (36)

  • PRO
    Dig Doug's Designs
    last year
    last modified: last year

    Another idea that fits the space:White Chiffon Rose of Sharon & Purple Pixie Loropetalum with a paver walk or chipped shale walk.




    VaLady thanked Dig Doug's Designs
    Best Answer
  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year

  • PRO
    Dig Doug's Designs
    last year
    last modified: last year

    This plant is easy to keep at the height you desire:

    http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=d243


    You may want to consider pleached (limbed up) evergreen shrubs.

  • l pinkmountain
    last year

    There are some columnar crab apples I think. Lookee here, a handy guide to ornamental crabs. You can prune them to keep them columnar and shorter than their full height, as long as it is not too much more than the mature height. https://www.jfschmidt.com/pdfs/JFS_CRAB_CHART.pdf

    If you weren't set on "columnar" I'd recommend sargent crab, it smells divine. And then there's sargent viburnum . . .

    Another option, star magnolia.

    Weigela, rose of sharon, lilac, dwarf flowering almond, golden chain tree . . . all of those are kind of bland looking when not in bloom though. Ninebark could be pruned to be columnar but it is a pain to constantly prune. Another lovely little tree but hard to come by is Mountain Silverbell, Halesia monticola.

    Witch hazel can be pruned to tree form. I had and loved musclewood, Carpinus carolina, at my last house. Persian ironwood, its more columnar cousin seems to be a popular ornamental in some places. I've had some success growing Mountain maple, Acer pennsylvanicum. I thought they needed shade but mine is hanging in there in full sun. I think also there is shrubby serviceberry. I've seen them marketed as "saskatoons." https://extension.umn.edu/trees-and-shrubs/serviceberry

    All these can be pruned but really won't overgrow that space too much for quite a few years.

    VaLady thanked l pinkmountain
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    last year

    Acer palmatum 'Twombly's Red Sentinel' or 'Hupp's Dwarf', Carpinus betulus 'Fastigiata Nana', Enkianthus campanulatus, Berberis thunbergii 'Helmond Pillar'.

    If you wanted to go with an evergreen, there are even more choices avaiable.

    VaLady thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK
    last year

    If the space is also used as a path I don't think there's room in 9.5 feet for any of the suggestions. I'd grow something agsinst the fence, stopping short of the gate. Or even have tall perennial like hollyhocks there. Btw, can't you change the side the gate is on?

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    last year

    Virtually all of those I suggested will stay under 4' wide and some even quite a bit less. That still leaves 5.5 feet of space with which to navigate the space :-) Just depends a bit on how it is arranged.

  • l pinkmountain
    last year

    Depends on how devoted you are to wanting a tree or shrub there. I had a tiny narrow garden at my last house but being the tree and shrub lover I was, I pruned them to keep them in line along the path.

    You have more options (as Gardengal suggested) in the evergreen category, with some columnar forms bred to make walls/screens along narrow pathways.

    I don' know what is at the front left (my left) corner of the fenced in area, but that is where I'd put the tree or shrub, so I could look at it and enjoy it from the porch. Do you need a screen against the neighbors? Otherwise I'd opt for some smaller shrubs or tall perennial plants, as Floral suggested. If it is just a screen you are wanting, a narrow shrub hedge, which would have to be pruned. Since it is fenced, I'm thinking a columnar yew like Hicks.

    https://lejardinetdesigns.com/2013/02/11/skinny-conifers-for-tight-spaces/

  • l pinkmountain
    last year

    Yes rose of sharon can be pruned to look like a tree.

  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year
    last modified: last year

    Thank you for all of the ideas!

    I was actually looking at crabapples and I found what appears to be a lovely apple tree on Bower & Branch's website; Scarlet Sentinel Apple. It doesn't ship until 2022 though! I also wasn't sure if fruit would be a good idea to have next to the porch and lattice.

    I was thinking deciduous vs evergreen because that porch wall faces due west. That way we would have shade and coverage during the warmer months and sun durning the cooler months.

    Dig Doug - Thank you so much for the pathway idea! I have no idea why I could ‘t see having the path set up that way. The whole time I was either seeing it along the fence or winding along at only 2-3ft wide. Having the hardscape along that entire front edge looks like a great idea. I also really love the rose of sharon idea. I had seen them at the nursery a couple of months ago and loved them, I just wasn't sure where I would be able to use them in our landscape.


    Floral - the gate is in the best possible position for that corner. The yard slopes down from the house and that corner of the house also has the hose spigot, the fireplace, and satellite dish; it would be a tight fit there.

  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year

    And Doug, your walkway idea allows me to put a path in without ruffling the HOA's feathers, our documents state that any pathway should be 4' from the lot line. Our manager didn't see a problem with them approving mine next to the fence but, there might have been a few more hoops to jump through.

  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year

    Here are some photos from farther back in the yard.

    What would I do with the downspout that is in that corner? Would I have to worry about washout with a shale or mulch/stone walkway?



  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year

    How about this one??? Would you do 5 of them?




  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year

    And here is a base plan with a crude walkway plan. Would you have it wrap around the front of the deck or end before the angled deck corner? I thought if I kept it tight to the deck I could maybe plant a tree in the spot between the walkway and fence, green spot.




  • l pinkmountain
    last year

    Why do you want the tree in that narrow spot instead of farther down the fence line where it can spread out and up more? Is it a privacy thing? There are certain plants that are bred to create hedged, but even among the best of them, some correct and careful pruning may be necessary.

    I'd put a climber rose with a trellis up against the fence smack dab in the middle, train the rose up the trellis, and call it a day. But that's me, I love roses. But rose of sharon is really easy care and I see folks using them a lot as hedges along fences where I live. A lot has to do with your zone too. There are some smaller crepe myrtles but they are more fussy as far as where they will grow.

  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year

    My grand plan is to have plantings along as much of the fence as possible, on both sides of the yard. We want privacy and I want pretty things to look at vs my neighbors yards. I only put that sad little sketch of a tree there as an idea for the deck to have a bit of shade. I am not determined to have a tree in that exact spot. I am however determined to have some form of screening along the fence that is outside of the screened porch. The walkway isn’t even necessary, I just thought with my kids trampling the grass some hardscaping would be nice.


    My boring, cost effective, easy to locate, and easy to plant idea was a mix of arborvitae, crepe myrtle, and decorative grasses along the back 3 sections of fence on each side.

  • l pinkmountain
    last year
    last modified: last year

    It is not a bad idea to have a shady porch. Here are two trees I had in my last tight space yard. One was "Fireglow" japanese maple that will get about 12 ft. in height, would work OK just outside of the roof line, and the other is the Carpinus carolinia that I mentioned, (scientific name) known commonly as musclewood/ironwood or blue beech. Another common cousin of those two trees is Parrotia persica, which is sometimes called "Persian Ironwood." That one has gorgeous foliage. These trees may grow larger eventually than your ideal height but their growth slows down at about 12 ft. Again, they should be fine if you plant them just beyond the roof line. Stick with something smaller/narrower for the skinny part towards the gate. Since that is going to be one of your biggest areas for privacy, I'd go with narrow evergreens like sky pencil holly or sky rocket juniper or Degroots spire arborvitae or whatever, there are many ornamental evergreens bred to be narrow and get tall. Same with deciduous shrubs . . . ask for "columnar" breeds of plants. (Shaped like a narrow column).

    Edited to add that crepe myrtle is great too, a couple of my neighbors had them.


    VaLady thanked l pinkmountain
  • PRO
    Dig Doug's Designs
    last year
    last modified: last year

    The chipped shale won't wash out if you have solid edging:



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  • l pinkmountain
    last year

    Doug just reminded me of something I learned on this forum years ago, you don't need evergreens for privacy if you're not going to be out on the porch in winter when the leaves fall off. Keeping that in mind gives you SO many more options for privacy plantings along a fence!! I can't believe I forgot that already!

  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year

    Thank you for the tree suggestions, pinkmountain. What are your thoughts on having a combination of evergreen and deciduous trees screening the porch? Our winter weather here in Virginia isn’t too bad and we plan to use the porch in the cooler months with a small electric fireplace. If I used evergreen and deciduous plantings would I space them every other? One evergreen and then 3 deciduous?

  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year

    Dig Doug - thank you so much for another beautiful rendering! It is helping my husband visualize my ideas so much better.

    We have a patio being installed in two weeks that will come in front of the deck stairs and morning room. Am I better off having the space in front of the steps connect with the patio or the walkway? I’ve also left a 4’ deep planting space between the morning room and patio. I know the depth is yet again not ideal but it seemed to work the best for our overall plan. Do you have any suggestions for plantings in that area? My somewhat crude and not so polished plan was to add pea gravel to the planting area and then place three raised beds on top so I could plant some tomatoes and herbs.

  • l pinkmountain
    last year

    An evergreen tree screening the porch? Screening out the view inside? I wouldn't wall myself up in evergreens but I put some dwarf evergreens along my fence screen just because I really like them. Some smaller ones are mugo pine and some of the dwarf white pines and also spruces and junipers and arborvitate. There are a lot of choices. If deer aren't a problem, dwarf Japanese white pine, while expensive, is nice looking, IMHO. Depends on your taste. I also planted torulosa juniper, which gets pretty big but again, something l like. And for contrast, globe arborvitae.

    But going with Doug's great design, you could easily sub something like a medium sized arborvitae or hicks yew instead of the rose of sharon. Just depends on your taste. Do you want leaves and flowers or needles to look at, or a bit of both.

  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year

    I would like a bit of both; leaves and flowers and needles. I don’t want to feel closed in when sitting in the porch but would like to break up our view to the neighbors firepit area and the other neighbors addition.


    This is the view when standing at the patio doors. My husband normally has the sad paper shades lowered to block out the view.



    This is the view from the chair in the corner when sitting. I’d be happy with screening that is just tall enough to cover the view when in a seated position. I also thought I wanted screening along the entire 60’ fence line but now realize that cutting off that extended view out across the neighbors yards and back tree line is not a good idea.




    I really like Doug’s idea of using Rose of Sharon but I do think having a bit of winter interest interspersed would be nice too. We planted emerald green arborvitae (about 3 years ago) along our areaway to achieve some color and privacy on that side as well. They are quite compact and would fit well on the porch side, I think another whole row would feel a little too formal though.



  • l pinkmountain
    last year

    I have a wall of 3 arborvitae screening the bay window in my guest bedroom/den. Fortunately I have room for a little secret rose garden in front of them, which can only be seen from the bay window or if you get to the entrance of the house past the arborvitate wall. That's the standard solution to breaking up the "wall of green" of a hedge, planting something in front of it. Another solution is the "mixed border" which includes a mix of shrubs and lower plants. But when space is tight, both of those become problematic. I had a similar situation at my last house. We liked to spend time out in our yard, but it was a VERY tight row house situation and we wanted to look at plants instead of our neighbors business. Here's some "before" and "after" photos about five years later. So I'm fairly familiar with this dilemma.


    This photo below taken before it was completely finished. The red tree died (probably my bad) and the Musclewood on the left got pruned. I wanted shade so I let it grow on top for quite a while before pruning underneath.

    Couple of thoughts, but maybe other can chime in with more ideas. First, there are plants specifically bred to grow in tight spaces, but also, some plants take quite well to pruning and you can prune them to stay in line (literally) if you know what you're doing and are willing to spend some time pruning. That is particularly relevant to a hedge. Some plants are well adapted to a hedge situation, but you need to know how to prune them or hedges can end up looking scraggly. A classic solution to the narrow bed by a fence is the pruning technique known as "espalier." Not everything does well with espalier, nor is it absolutely necessary, but it is an option to add interest. Another option, and one I utilized, would be to put some big pots in front of the evergreens to contain some colorful plants to view in the warmer months and then in the darker, cooler months you can put some lighted ornaments or whatnot out there. I just saw some gorgeous large planters featuring colorful cannas in the middle, they would be cool against an evergreen hedge. You can even grow roses in big pots, I have one in my rose garden.

    With Doug's design you could easily sub out some blue rug low growing junipers or star juniper for the blue flowers, for year round interest, and just plant three rose of sharon bushes and then three . . . my choice for ease of pruning would be hicks yew. I wouldn't do every other one, because that would dilute the effect of the rose of sharon when in bloom. And then because I am a sucker for plants, I'd probably go the planter route and put a big ol rose in two planters, between the yews, in keeping with Doug's esthetic and indulging in my love of their scent. The one I have is Iceberg, the one I used to have was Fairy, both easily found. But that's me, and I hate to muddle the choices of the master . . . maybe Doug has other or better ideas . . .

    You could also switch it out and put in a hedge of a deciduous shrub of something like mock orange or spirea, and then plant an evergreen tree as a specimen instead of the crepe myrtle. There are some great dwarf spruce options, maybe a small cultivar of Serbian spruce, or mugo pine, aforementioned Japanese white pine, or one of my favorite's torulosa juniper. There might be some dwarf hinoki cypress that would fit the bill too. That could be decorated with colored lights for viewing in the darker season. Depends on what type of "specimen" tree you want. A specimen tree is one grown out in the open with the goal of enjoying it's full form.

  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year

    That area looks wonderful! It filled in so nicely. I’m sorry about the red tree, that was a nice pop of color.

    I LOVE all of these ideas you’re presenting me with! It’s really helping me think this through without rushing to a decision.
    It’s funny that you mentioned the little rose garden area by your arborvitae; right before I read this I was looking at my base plan wondering if I should just make that gate inoperable and utilize the entire side yard as a secret garden. I’d still have to keep everything along the fence and couldn’t really branch out to larger plants but, I could plant at the end in front of the gate and gain some privacy from the front/street. I can see my 3yo really enjoying a space like that. I could even put a chalkboard on the lattice for him and if I did pea gravel he could play with his trucks over there too :)
    The addition of potted plants and roses would add so much personality to the space and wonderful scents to the porch.

    Looks like I have some more research and planning to do!

  • l pinkmountain
    last year

    Roses aren't great for kids playing around but if they were up off the ground in pots . . . What side of the house is that on? If it wasn't too hot or sunny, you could put in a dwarf japanese maple. After my wonderful fireglow died we got a japanese maple in a pot for that spot. I run a children's garden, and your kid might like a little fountain or decorative bird bath. We had one in our old yard that I showed, to show off our beach stones. The pot thing was what I did because I had such limited space. You can make all kinds of play gardens in pots for kids.

  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year

    That side gets south and west sun; which is another reason I was looking for something deciduous along the fence line, our summers can be pretty intense and our winters surprisingly mild (at least until January).

    I think it could be a lot of fun adding pots different plants, maybe some fairy gardens and lights, a fountain or bird bath is a wonderful idea too. We just planted a sunflower garden on the opposite side of the yard and we have a bird feeder that brings us so many different birds to watch; goldfinch, cardinal, titmouse, nuthatch, chickadee, house finch, downy headed woodpecker, red bellied woodpecker, blue birds, and more! I plan to add tomatoes, peppers, and herbs to the new planter area that our patio is creating.

    Do you have any other ideas or resources for a making a children’s garden?

  • l pinkmountain
    last year

    I just lost my whole long post! I actually work at a children's garden. Kids like things to climb on, that's for sure, like rocks and logs. I have to say the water features are always a big hit. We had a small pond with a fountain in the middle when I was a kid growing up, we loved it. Herbs and flowers that attract butterflies are always popular. We had a pizza garden and that was fun too. It's broken this year but we'll be bringing it back. Any kind of bower or tent or secret hideout they like, such as a bean pole teepee or something like that. You can grow vines up all kinds of structures. And if you google backyard children's garden or fairy or gnome garden or miniature garden or whatnot you can find more ideas than you'll know what to do with!

    That exposure is too hot for a small japanese maple, so forget that. It's perfect for some tall flowers though. Kids like big bold splashy things like big zinnias, hollyhocks, hibiscus . . . spring bulbs like tulips . . .

  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year

    I hate when that happens! I’ve switched to the app which posts photos better and I haven’t lost anything I’ve written but, there is also no edit option.

    I have tree cookies, stumps, 2x4’s, a large wooden spool, a climbing dome, swing set, rock box, and a tree swing in the yard right now. We’re adding the patio in a couple weeks (rain keeps delaying our start date) and we’ll be adding a fire pit (moveable) to that for the bigger kids. My older boys also like to explore the woods behind our yard, so there are now some well worn paths that I was thinking of playing around with at some point. I just discovered that we have some Paw Paw trees back there, I have yet to see fruit though. I also have a slack line but haven’t had a chance to set it up yet. The woods are HOA common space and I can’t have the slack line set up all the time. I’m also trying to figure out how to maintain that wooded area, that will be a post for another day though :)

    I discovered the Gardening with Children forum and found some great posts from a good 10+ years ago. One of them mentioned a pizza garden too! I love that idea.

  • l pinkmountain
    last year
    last modified: last year

    If you don't have space, a pizza pot. A tomato, pepper, some basil and whatever else you like on your pizza. Paw Paw fruits late summer. They look like huge . . . lima beans.

    Edited to add that there is a post on here on maintaining a woodland from a poster in the same situation as you, they have a wooded trail behind their house. The biggest concerns to manage for with kids and pets are ticks and poison ivy. Check your kids for ticks. I always wear long pants, close toed shoes and usually socks when I'm out in the woods.

    Here's a link to the thread on managing weeds in a backyard woodlot. I posted quite a bit on that one, with some suggestions on how to begin if you want to plant a bit in it. Not necessary though, sounds like you have more than enough to keep you busy! https://www.gardenweb.com/discussions/5730254/to-manage-wooded-landscape-need-advice#n=44

  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year

    Should the Paw Paw have flowers on it by now? I’ve read that they can be hard to get to fruit.

    And yes, we have attire rules for being in the woods. I’ve had the yard treated for fleas and ticks but refuse to have it treated for mosquitoes. The kids know to put on bug spray when they go outside and we do tick checks before each bath/shower.

    Thank you for the link. I had started reading that post but then got side tracked. I definitely have a lot on my plate, it’s nice to have projects though as a stay at home mom that also homeschools :)

  • l pinkmountain
    last year
    last modified: last year

    Inserting a photo of paw paw flowers and fruits. Flower photo date is 5-26. Fruit date is Sept. You'll need both a male an female plant to get fruit. I don't know how to tell the difference.
    https://www.gardensalive.com/product/paw-paws-the-banana-of-the-north


    Edited to add that you can teach your kids to identify common invasive weeds and learn to keep them out of the woods. Worst offenders are garlic mustard, knapweed and Japanese knotweed, dame's rocket, barberry, buckthorn and Eurasian honeysuckles because they change the nature of the soil and make it tough for native wildflowers to grow. Thistles we don't like because they are so darn prickly. Bitter sweet and rugosa rose because they strangle the trees. I don't know where you live, but you could also have kudzu and mile a minute vine. Winged euonymous/burning bush is a problem because it totally takes over the understory. Norway maple does the same thing once it gets big, virtually nothing can grow around it.

  • VaLady
    Original Author
    last year

    I’ve been going through the woods just behind our house with the kids and a plant id app identifying as much as we can. We’re taking notes, looking info up in our field/plant guides and planning out how we’re going to take care of that area. We’ve been surprised by quite a few of our finds.

    Back to the side yard; our patio was poured this week and I had a minor meltdown about it. Not my finest moment. I had a local landscaper come out yesterday to talk about plantings and how to soften the look of the patio. I spoke with him about the side yard as well and his suggestion was a combination of arborvitae and a specific crepe myrtle (only reaches a max height of 8-10’). He said rose of Sharon does not do well in our area due to Japanese beetles. Would this crepe myrtle be a good option for that narrow area? Would it give me the privacy I’m looking for? He said he’d bring in 6’ trees for planting. Our porch floor is about 4’ off the ground. Would I need to fill in under the crepe myrtles with something? And if so, what grows well under them and wouldn’t encroach on the pathway.
    I don’t know that I’ll use this landscaper as he wasn’t very open to discussing solutions for the planter area our patio created, it honestly seemed like he avoided me each time I brought up that area.

  • l pinkmountain
    last year
    last modified: last year

    Crepe myrtle and arborvitae would give you both winter and spring interest, so not a bad idea. Still similar to Doug's design but not as "flowery" but you could do some pots or something for summer color. I'm trying to think of a shrub that has flowers similar to rose of sharon but I can't think of one off the top of my head. Especially one that would fit in that tight space. Maybe a pink or white potentilla . . . Maybe someone else could chime in here.

    It's going to be great, just keep going! Landscaping is always a work/vision in progress.

    Edited to add because I just thought of a couple--weigela if you can find an old fashioned one that is not "Wine and roses" with the red foliage. Would need a bit of pruning. Also dwarf flowering almond, which is a "meh" little treeish shrub most of the time but has gorgeous early summer flowers.

  • mmmunroe
    12 days ago

    Red Obelisk Beeches, Swiss Aspen Columnar, Certain maples and many evergreen species.

  • engine99
    12 days ago

    Sky Pencil Holly