Saturday, April 2, 2016 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Slender Trees for Smaller Areas

Slender trees work well for smaller landscapes

Brian Jervis: Ask a Master Gardener

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Q: My house and my neighbor’s are only 14 feet apart. I would like to have a tree in that space, but it would have to be slender. Do you have suggestions? M. A., Tulsa

A: Many urban homes have small lawn areas between houses and street-side. A standard 60-foot-tall oak that might have a 60-foot-spread is not a consideration. To accommodate smaller landscapes for those wishing to plant a tree, slender versions may be more attractive and useful. They may be planted in rows for a more formal setting to define boundaries and as a screen for sight and sound. One loses the shade benefit but may be compensated by the slenderness asset.
These trees are often referred to as “columnar” or “fastigiated” forms. As demand for these trees has increased, more and more slender forms of familiar trees have entered the market to become available. Many of these trees are needled evergreens, but there are deciduous cultivars and even fruit trees.
A good place to go to see some of the varieties of columnar trees is the Monrovia website. There are photos and information about growing conditions for more than 100 varieties.
A few of the trees that might be of interest to a Tulsa-area homeowner are listed below.
A slender version of eastern red cedar, the Taylor juniper is an excellent choice. Junipers, not cedars, love Oklahoma and will grow up to 30 feet tall and 3 feet wide. No pruning needed, ever. This tree comes close to an ideal replacement for the Italian Cypress grown commonly in the Mediterranean region. Italian cypress will grow in Oklahoma but may not survive an unusually cold winter.
Another tree that is an increasing favorite of landscapers is a slender form of the southern magnolia. “Little Gem Magnolia” grows to 20 feet tall and up to 10 feet wide. A smaller cultivar, a dwarf of Little Gem, grows only to 10 feet. These trees are evergreen, have nice shiny leaves and huge beautiful blossoms in spring.
Another great tree to consider is the regal English oak, “Fastigiata.” These may grow to 50-60 feet and up to 15 feet wide. This European import is elegant and grows well in our area.
The accompanying photograph is of a columnar sweetgum tree with fall foliage in the North Carolina Botanical Garden. It is an extreme example of a slender cultivar of a common tree.
There are other slender versions of trees to choose from. Cultivars of the sugar maple, European hornbeam, hollies, arborvitae, cedars, bald and other cypresses, tulip tree, cherry, hawthorn and many junipers are marketed.
Local nurseries have a fairly wide selection to choose from. If you want a tree not available locally, the nursery may order it for you, or you can get a smaller plant by mail and grow it in a pot for a couple of years before planting permanently.

For more information or to ask a question about gardening, contact the Master Gardeners at 918-746-3701 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Garden tips

§  Most bedding plants, summer flowering bulbs and annual flower seeds can be planted after danger of frost. This happens around mid-April in most of Oklahoma. Hold off mulching these crops until soil temperatures warm up. Warm-season annuals should not be planted until soil temperatures are in the low 60s.
§  The soil temperature for our area as of Wednesday was about 59 degrees. Soil temperatures may be found on the Oklahoma Mesonet website.
§  Harden off transplants outside in partial protection from sun and wind prior to planting.
§  Don’t plant tomato sprouts too early. The soil temperature is key and should be above 60 degrees before planting. If the soil is too cool, the plants will sit there and not grow. Remove the blossoms from any tomato plant at the time of planting, it needs roots before making tomatoes.


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