You may hear the terms narrow, columnar, and fastigiate when people talk about skinny trees. Whatever you call them, their unique growth habit makes them great for screening in small spaces, for use in containers on patios and decks, and generally for growing in confined areas. Nor do you have to live in a spacious suburban setting to harvest cherries, plums and apples. There are fruit trees that will fit the confines of a city garden.
Many of the trees and shrubs described here can be used as specimen plantings or focal points in the garden. There are many possible applications. For example, they can be used in those difficult situations where you want to distract the eye from a less attractive element. They can highlight a void, giving you pause to contemplate an empty space, or to highlight a special feature such as a rock. Specimen tree should be used selectively and seeking the advice of a professional landscape designer can ensure you achieve the desired effect.
TALL AND NARROW FRUIT TREES
A new and exciting development in the world of plant breeding is the ability to produce delicious, full-sized fruit on slender, vertical trees that grow in large pots on sunny decks or balconies. The fruiting spurs are located along the main leader, and branches are short and upright, producing straight, upright-growing, extremely narrow, columnar shaped trees. They are healthy and disease resistant. They can be planted in the ground or in large containers. As trees mature, the yield of fruit will increase. Be sure to maintain fertility levels for good growth and yields.
Trees mature to 8 to 10 feet in height but less than 2 feet in diameter. When grown in full sun you may expect full-sized fruit the first year, so long as there are 2 or more varieties for cross pollination. In addition to ensuring good cross pollination, having a minimum of 2 varieties ensures good fruit set. Varieties currently available are:
‘Golden Sentinel Colonnade Apple’ which has a spring display of white flowers followed by large solid gold fruit. Its sweet, juicy flesh is good for eating and baking.
‘Northpole Colonnade Apple’ produces a heavy crop of large, red, McIntosh-like apples. Its compact growth habit is straight up with virtually no branching.
‘Emerald Spire Colonnade Apple’ is an attractive green apple with a golden blush.
‘Scarlett Spire Colonnade Apple’ produces a good yield of fruit. Its skin color is bright red over green.
‘Scarlett Sentinel Apple’ has abundant, closely spaced large, greenish-yellow fruit.
‘Crimson Rocket Colonnade Peach’ produces full sized, yellow-fleshed fruit which is sweet and smooth textured.
TALL AND NARROW EVERGREEN TREES
(Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Gracilis')
An elegant and beautiful small evergreen tree, the slender Hinoki cypress is a great choice for small gardens. It is a narrow pillar with lovely layered fan-like branches densely radiating from the main trunk. It is slower growing and more compact than the typical Hinoki cypress and matures more gracefully, reaching a height of 12 to 15 feet and 5 feet in width. The slender Hinoki will do best in full sun conditions but can also tolerate shade conditions.
Columnar White Pine
(Pinus strobus ‘Fastigiata’)
This eastern white pine cultivar is a small to medium sized, rapid-growing, needled evergreen tree with a narrow, upright habit. It typically grows 30 to 40 feet tall, but only 8 feet wide. It is noted for its columnar shape in which the branches all ascend upwards. Its soft bluish-green needles are in bundles of five and the light brown cones are attractive to birds.
Weeping White Spruce
(Picea glauca ‘Pendula’)
This Weeping White Spruce adds a stately and elegant presence to the landscape. It has a strong central leader and a distinctive refined pyramidal form. The evergreen foliage of 'Pendula' hugs the trunk, sweeping downward right to the ground. The spring needles emerge light green, slowly changing to bluish-green. Their unique shape and relatively fine texture sets this tree apart from other spruces. The plant produces attractive cones that are only about 1 to 2 inches in length. 'Pendula' is highly adaptable to most sites, even proving somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. It grows very slowly and always maintains its narrow profile. For those with limited space who long for a spruce in their garden, this is a wonderful specimen tree.
(Thuja occidentalis ‘Degroot’s Spire’)
Degroot’s Spire is very popular variety because of its narrow, columnar form with dense green foliage that twists and layers over itself. Of intermediate size, it grows to about 10 feet in height but only 18 inches in width. Often used as a specimen planting, its beautiful tall narrow form and twisted texture can be used singly, in pairs or in rows. It makes a truly elegant and artistic statement in the garden.
Columnar Hetz Juniper
(Juniperus chinensis ‘Hetzi Columnaris’)
This is a vigorous grower reaching 10 to 15 feet in height and 5 to 6 feet in width. It has deep green needles which are augmented with a heavy production of blue colored “berries”. It offers the added bonus of being deer resistant.
TALL AND NARROW EVERGREEN SHRUBS
Japanese Holly Sky Pencil
(Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’)
This unique form of Japanese holly makes a living exclamation point in the landscape! The strongly fastigiate, pencil-thin growth habit and lustrous, dark evergreen leaves provide a rare, natural, vertical accent in the landscape. Even the smallest of spaces can accommodate this excellent and durable holly. It grows somewhat slowly in a vertical, pencil-like column to 10 feet tall but only 2 to 3 feet wide. A typical 4 to 6 foot tall specimen may only be 10 to 12 inches wide. It serves as a vertical accent in narrow spaces. Use a pair flanking a wall fountain or sculpture to create a lovely effect, or use four at the corners of a simple parterre.
Columnar Japanese Plum Yew
(Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Fastigiata’)
Don’t be concerned about the fancy botanical name, or even the somewhat elaborate common name of this distinctive evergreen specimen. It is commonly called plum yew because the fruits on female plants resemble tiny plums and the foliage resembles that of yews (Taxus). Its upright columnar form matures to 8 to 10 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The lustrous black-green two inch blunt needles are arranged spirally on erect stems that rise up from the base of the plant. The bark exfoliates when mature. As if this were not enough to commend it, the Columnar Japanese Plum Yew is deer resistant. It grows happily in sun or in shady conditions.
Graham Blandy Boxwood
(Buxus sempervirens ‘Graham Blandy’)
This unusual boxwood has a columnar shape, growing to 8 to 10 feet in height but only 2 feet in width. It is slow growing and functions well as a specimen plant or massed as a hedge. It is a good option for shady conditions.
TALL AND NARROW DECIDUOUS TREES
Columnar European Hornbeam
(Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’)
An elegant deciduous tree, this tree has a strongly symmetrical and regal appearance, growing slowly to a height of 30 to 40 feet. It has dark green spring and summer foliage followed by lovely yellow autumn color. The bark has a smooth grey rippling texture. With its dense branching habit, it is particularly attractive in the winter.
(Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’)
Quercus robur fastigiata is a narrow-upright, columnar, fastigiate form of English oak featuring dense, upright branching that rises at a sharp and narrow angle from a short trunk whose dark gray to black bark is ridged and furrowed. It typically matures to 50 to 60 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet in width. Its leaves remain dark green throughout the growing season and its acorns are an important source of food for wildlife. This is a useful tree for tight spaces and is well adapted to urban settings.
(Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Slender Silhouette’)
This columnar, deciduous tree grows 35 to 50 feet in height and just 7 feet wide. The polished foliage is attractive lush green throughout the spring and summer before turning vivid shades of purple, red and orange in the autumn. As the tree matures, its bark takes on an interesting furrowed texture. It does best in full sun conditions. It is ideal as a focal point in the garden and can be planted in rows to create a formal avenue. Its year round shape, colorful fall foliage and furrowed bark make it an outstanding small ornamental tree.
Sargent’s Columnar Cherry
(Prunus sargentii ‘Columnaris’)
Flowering cherries are among the most well-known and beautiful spring flowering trees. Prunus sargentii 'Columnaris' is an upright form with narrow vase-shaped branching. It grows 20 to 30 feet high. Its abundance of pink flower clusters appear before the foliage in spring. The small, glossy, dark purple-black cherries which ripen in early summer, although too bitter for human taste buds, are welcomed by the birds. The glossy, dark green leaves emerge in spring with a bronze tint. In fall, the foliage turns attractive shades of red, yellow and bronze. Shiny reddish brown bark is attractive in the winter. Sargent’s cherries honor Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927), the first director of the Arnold Arboretum.
(Prunus cerasifera ‘Crimson Pointe’)
‘Crimson Pointe’ is a narrow, tightly columnar flowering plum with branches growing almost parallel to the main trunk. It is a vigorous grower, ideal for landscapes with limited space or to line expansive drives. Pink buds open to white flowers in early spring before the foliage appears. Orange-bronze new growth matures to glossy rich burgundy, which brightens and takes on orange tones in the fall. It may produce a very few purple summer fruits for the birds. It grows 18 to 20 feet in height and 5 to 6 feet in width.
(Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’)
‘Chanticleer’ is an attractive ornamental flowering tree for the landscape, known for a profusion of white flowers in early spring. It is a tight, narrow ornamental pear tree that typically grows 25 to 35 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Because of its pyramidal shape, ‘Chanticleer’ is less prone to branch breakage in the winter than other ornamental pears. It has oval, glossy dark green leaves attached by long petioles. As a result, the leaves appear to dance in the breeze. They turn brilliant reddish-purple in the fall, adding yet another season of interest. It is an ideal specimen tree for areas with limited space. It is one of the earliest trees to leaf out in the spring and the latest to lose its leaves in the fall.
Please note that we carry the trees and shrubs described above in limited supply and they may not be available at all Mahoney's locations. However, they can be transferred from store to store and we will do our best to fulfill your wish to have one or more of these special plants in your garden.