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tall but narrow

Posted by bungalow_house 5 Coastal S. Maine (My Page) on
Sat, Nov 10, 07 at 15:13

I have several places ranging from mostly shady to mostly sunny where I could use something with some height (maybe 5-10'), but very shallow (like 1-3'). I'm not finding much that grows that way naturally. I am not a fan of pruning, but in addition to putting up trellises with climbing vines and upright evergreens, I need some suggestins for woody shrubs that I can prune narrow but tall. Any suggestions? (By the way, I don't want to shear anything...too formal for my place.) I made an impulse purchase of a pieris already, 8'h by 6'w, I think the tag said. Would it look ok pruned to a depth of 2-3 feet?


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: tall but narrow

Here is a previous post with some good answers. Narrow hollies, junipers and arborvitae seem to come up as solutions a lot for this question.

Here is a link that might be useful: Narrow shrub

RE: tall but narrow

If you want a tall burst of color in those narrow places, you might try some lily bulbs. The three old fashioned types, bloom at different times of the summer, can spread out the blooming for a long time. Some shade would probably still work for them, but mostly sunny would be best.

The types are Trumpet, Asian, and Oriental lilies. There is a new type, Orienpets, a cross between Orientals and Trumpets. They get very tall,4-6ft, huge flower heads with many buds, with an expanded range of colors. You would need to check each plant of these, to find the bloom times. Mine vary. I have found they need a bit of time to settle in, year or two, before getting the maximum height and flower quantities on labels.

I like all the lilies, some are colorful, others smell wonderful. Very tough, rewarding with flowers. Sure would be pretty in front of the green of shrubs.

I cut the heads off when blooms are gone. Puts plant energy into root growth, not seeds. I think my plants develop faster this way, have better blooms.

RE: tall but narrow

Depending on the light conditions, etc., you might do better sticking with the lilies that grow no taller than 3-4' - the taller ones (which can be up to 6-8') tend to lean a bit, and they WILL lean toward the light. Tying them up can work, but they are prone to breaking at the point they are tied, and it's a pain. A number will be willing to bloom in part shade, but in the deepest shade, they won't bloom.

If you mostly want the height for the summer and fall/winter months, there are a number of upright-growing grasses, that get to your desired height. You might have to divide them every few years, to keep the widths in bounds. The blades and flower stalks can be left for the winter, and only cut down when the new growth starts in the spring, so there would be only a short period when there would be nothing there. Avoid pampas grass, and a few of the others - the saw-tooth edges of the grass blades can cut bare skin.

Since you are willing to do some pruning, either annually, or more often, then the range of possibilities opens up. Just bear in mind that a clipped hedge or individual bush is formal looking, and needs to be shaped with a slight point or roundness to its top, to shed snow, with the sides of the hedge sloping a bit from top to the bottom, so light gets to the lower branches and they stay alive.

Non-conifer, or non-evergreen, shrubs growing tall and narrow aren't as easy. Will boxwood be hardy in your area? It's not overly fast growing, but... A tree-form, single trunk amelanchier might do - the spreading out could be kept to the top section. While they have proven to be invasive in some areas, butterfly bushes (Buddleia spp.) can take hard pruning to keep them in shape. Strawberry bush (Euonymus americana) might be too wide, but grows to 5-6', z.5b. Large fothergilla (F. major) might be too wide also, an upright pyramidal shrub to 8', z.5. Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is another possibility, but looks better when left un-pruned, so you would need to pick the right location - grows to an upright 6-8', with a number of cultivars and flower colors to choose from. Hollies will need pruning to keep them narrow, in general, but there are narrow cultivars. One of the deciduous ones might be nice in winter, but you have to have a male for berries, and it may need pruning. (Holiday decorating?) Kerria is another that might need a little pruning to keep to the width - and it can be temperamental, dieing for no good reason over a winter - the double flowered cultivar seems hardier than the single. An apple or crabapple trained to an espalier might be very nice - it is work.... Pyracantha is another that will work very well espaliered - you can train it into many different shapes if so inclined (hearts, circles, squares, diamonds, etc.) - just be aware it has thorns! P. coccinea 'Lalandei' is hardy to z.5b, with red-orange berries. If fireblight is a major problem in your area, then forget the apples or pyracanthas, although some of the crabapples, and some pyracantha hybrids are resistant.... Climbing or rambling roses can be very effective trellised or on a pillar or post - if you pick varieties with colorful hips, they will last until the birds eat them, or go for those with multiple or ever-blooms for summer interest. A tree-form lilac, or any of the lilacs (with some possible trimming needed) might be perfect.

Most of the conifers do have narrow cultivars, and some of the taller-growing ones have smaller selections as well - the trick is to find them. Eastern white pine can be sheared as a hedge, but you do HAVE to keep after it. I would stay away from Dwarf Alberta Spruce - they are prone to disease, and after growing for a few years (usually more than 10), they start to look not-so-pretty. But, there are cedars, arborvitae, etc., etc., that have selections that should work. While you are looking for shrubs, cross-posting in the Trees Forum might garner more answers - some people over there don't look over here, and they are VERY knowledgeable about shrubs as well as trees!

RE: tall but narrow

not finding much that grows that way naturally?

May I inquire as to where you are looking? Or are you saying that you don't consider evergreens to be shrubs?

Arbs top the list, followed closely by juniper, the ubiquitous DAS, and certain varieties of holly bring up the tail. as you move south, certain Chamaecyparis species and varieties become more common, and Cupressus, Cryptomeria, and Cedrus.

If you have a good sized nursery around you, try to locate Pinus cembra 'Columnaris', Pinus sylvestris 'Fastigiata', Acer platanoides 'Curly Lampost'.

Now if you are seeking deciduous shrubs, there is a rule of thumb that is scarcely ever violated...deciduous shrubs are about as tall as they are wide. When you start to reach some of the more tree like shrubs (larger viburnum, philadelphus, amelanchier) this rule starts to dissipate, but I can only only think of one shrub that truly is deciduous and columnar, and people would pull my hair out if I named it.

Now when it comes to can prune anything anyway you want. If not, bonsai would be a dead art, and terms like coppicing never would have existed. I'd recommend looking at things that don't sucker.

How does Enkianthus do around you?

RE: tall but narrow

Some Sun Suggestions:

Fagus sylvatica 'Dawyck Purple'
Fagus sylvatica 'Dawyck Gold'
Fagus sylvatica 'Purple Fountain'
Fagus sylvatica 'Red Obelisk'
Acer japonicum 'Lovett'
Acer palmatum 'Skeeter's Broom'

Part Sun:

Fagus sylvatica 'Aurea Pendula'


RE: tall but narrow

Rhamnus frangula Fine Line is a lovely deciduous shrub that only gets 2 ft. wide and 6 ft tall. It is a non invasive buckthorn with neat fern like foliage and interesting bark as it ages.

RE: tall but narrow

Enkianthus! What a wonderful and easy shrub and it meets your needs. Search this forum for further info.

RE: tall but narrow

Berberis thunbergii 'Helmond's Pillar' works as a narrow deciduous shrub.


RE: tall but narrow

Helmond pillar barberry, Seaberry/sea buckthorn, fastigiate plum yew, a 'Colonnade' columnar apple tree(the Maypole crab variety is beautiful with red leaves). Also there are as mentioned the junipers and the sky pencil ilex/holly(mine died so I cannot recommend that one!)

And I guess they are hated..but I have a single tallhedge alder buckthorn plant that is very nice, fastigiate, and looks good. I like it anyway and it makes a good exclamation point where it is at.

Personally I like the Irish yew that was mentioned(not sure of the hardiness though). I have had no problems with the Helmond Barberry, the Fastigiate Plum Yew, and the columnar apples(I have them all hre in zone 5/6). No problem really fitting easily in a 2 foot square space.

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