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Vicki Green's Garden

Vicki Green's garden is one of the neatest and most immaculate gardens I've seen and it is a showcase for beautifully grown plants as well as art objects (she is a glass artist). The property was once wall-to-wall grass and now just a central portion is devoted to the green. A long pathway leads you around the perimeter of the garden adorned with lush plantings. Vicki is a master at pruning and her technique reminds me of the way Michael does it. She has trained many of her "shrubs" into small trees, such at the waxleaf privet and elderberry. A Wax Leaf Privet ( Ligustrum japonicum ) trained into an attractive small tree. I was taken aback by the size of the plants, some of which I grow, and my mind was racing. Driving up, I was immediately wowed by her 'Golden Spirit' Smoke Bush ( Cotinus coggygria ) although now I do recall seeing a very large on 117th St. However, this one is the most beautiful I've seen -   I also was surprised to see how large her 

Ten Tall Skinny Plants for Tight Spaces

A blog post I wrote for work and I'm sharing it here -

It seems like every day we get questions about plants for narrow spaces. This might be a tight area between buildings, between a sidewalk and the house, or maybe along a garage wall or fence. Choosing an inappropriate plant for such a situation will surely bring troubles down the road. There are a number of selections for this situation and hybridizers continue to introduce new plants every year. Here are a few selections to help you make the best decision.


Rose of Sharon 'Purple Pillar' or 'White Pillar' (Hibiscus syriacus) - This old-fashioned shrub is easy to grow and once it starts blooming in mid to late summer, the blooms continue to come until frost. A member of the hibiscus family, older varieties can attain very hefty sizes. However, newer introductions like 'Purple Pillar' (pictured) and 'White Pillar' (white flowers) provide a columnar effect. You can expect plants to grow 10' feet high with a 2-3' feet spread. (Photo courtesy Proven Winners)

'Sky Pencil' Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata) - This is about as narrow as they come! Growing to 8-10 feet tall and only 2-3' feet wide, the dark green leaves are evergreen. It performs well in sun or shade. Small black berries appear in fall and winter if you have a pollinator. All 'Sky Pencil' plants are female. (Photo by Phillip Oliver)

'Fine Line' Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) - Another tall columnar shrub with a feathery leaf effect that brings in the bees. The leaves turn a beautiful golden yellow in the fall. The leaves fall to reveal an attractive bark until new growth reemerges in the spring. (Photo courtesy Monrovia)

Upright Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Fastigiata’) is a dense, upright shrub with fine textured leaves. The shrub is evergreen and grows to 10′ tall and 3-6′ wide. (Photo by Phillip Oliver)

Weeping White Spruce (Picea glauca 'Pendula') is an elegant evergreen with draping needles. The tree can reach 20-30' feet tall and 5-8 feet wide. (Photo courtesy Monrovia)[/caption]

Alaska Cedar 'Green Arrow'  
Alaska Cedar 'Green Arrow' (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) is another tall graceful shrub that can reach 30 feet high and 5 feet wide. (Photo by Phillip Oliver)

Juniper 'Skyrocket' 
Juniper 'Skyrocket' (Juniperus scopulorum) - There are many upright junipers to choose from. 'Skyrocket' is one of the most narrow forms ('Blue Arrow' is also a good choice). (Photo courtesy Monrovia)

Weeping Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum') - A most unique evergreen tree that many refer to as the "Dr. Seuss Tree" because of its contorted characteristics. Growing to 25 ft. tall and only 2-3 feet wide, the tree is slightly curving in youth and as it gets taller, it produces limbs that extend in odd directions. (Photo by Phillip Oliver)

Boxwood 'Graham Blandy' (Buxus sempervirens) - You usually think of boxwoods as medium-growing rounded shrubs or perhaps low-sheared hedges around an herb garden. 'Graham Blandy' is a unique variety that grows upright and columnar (similar to 'Sky Pencil' holly). It grows from 8-10 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Sun or shade. (Photo by Phillip Oliver)


Feather Reed Grass 'Karl Forester' (Calamagrostis acutiflora) - Many ornamental grasses also make excellent screens. 'Karl Forester' is very narrow (about 2 ft.) and tall (5-6'). It is a non-spreading grass that is also quite effective planted in groups. A good choice for hiding that electrical box or heating unit. (Photo courtesy Monrovia)

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. That is a good list. The Spruce is beautiful, as is the Buckthorn. Another good idea for narrow situations is a vine-covered trellis, or a trellis as a topper for a wall to extend the height of the screen.

  2. Phillip you have given me a bad case of the wants. I like several of these plants. I have the skypencil holly. I have tried them several times. I have one left. I don't know what the problem is unless I don't water enough during the drought times.
    Loved the picture of your beautiful Mother. You look a lot like her.

  3. I love the drama of the weeping white spruce!

  4. Very useful post. I have bookmarked a previous post of yours regarding narrow trees in your own garden. As my garden is quite 'full', I am always on the hunt of trees that will occupy a narrow space. The sky pencil and buckthorn (can they hurry up and grow already...). I've been intrigued by 'Karl Forester' grass for a while as I see it used very successful with new construction around town (West Seattle). If I had a whole new garden to state, the Weeping Giant Sequoia would have taken center stage.

  5. Beautiful pics! I always appreciate seeing gardens. Our temps here in Kentucky are horrible this week. It's a heat wave.


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