How often is it that you need a plant that offers some height, but the space to plant it in is narrow and limited?  I can tell you it happens to me all the time.  Most suburban residential landscapes are loaded with just that circumstance – you have relatively large homes located on too small pieces of property.

Above is a typical scenario where the front walk creates this narrow planting space between the walk and the building.  And yet, by design, a taller plant on either side of this front entrance would make a dramatic statement.  What’s a landscaper to do!

As in every instance of plant selection make sure you realize the true mature size of the plant.  Don’t be fooled by the shape and size of the plant sitting at the garden center.  If the staff is knowledgeable ask how large this plant will get, both in height and width.  If you have any doubts as to the accuracy of that information, write down the name and look it up yourself.

In this instance I chose a Fastigiate Boxwood.  There are several varieties and the name of this one escapes me, but as long as its classified fastigiate, it should stay narrow.  It has been growing on this site for a few years now and is doing it’s job, i.e. staying narrow and looking beautiful.

Now don’t let the word “fastigiate” fool you.  Yes it does imply a narrow variety of the plant, but you still must learn and appreciate its mature width.  I have a fastigiate White Pine on a project that’s 14′ wide! (That was a learning experience.)

These Fastigiate Boxwood on this property are trimmed regularly.  I knew this would be the case; informed the homeowner, got the OK and advised the maintenance contractor on the trimming.  At least the fastigiate variety is helping with the cause.

Have you used any of the varieties of Fastigiate Boxwood?  What other plants do you use in narrow spaces?  Would love to hear about your experiences.  Please share your comments below.

  • Debra Vessels
    11:36 AM, 5 March 2017

    I planted this in the spring of 2014. It was 3′ tall, and now is over 6′. I regret that I did not have a trimming strategy when it was planted. It is very spindly and only about 12″ wide. Can you advise me on the trimming process so I can have a fuller plant such as you have pictured. Thanks, Debra

    • Roger
      1:19 PM, 5 March 2017

      The fact that your boxwood has grown taller says it’s generally healthy. As I mentioned in the article, there are several varieties of fastigiate or columnar type boxwood. And a few of those varieties do stay very narrow — and at that, they can look quite spindly, particularly as they mature.

      Pruning could definitely improve that. And because you haven’t been pruning, the plant has instinctively pushed any new growth towards the tips of stems & branches. By selectively tip-pruning those ends (with a hand-pruner) you’ll encourage the plant to push side-growth from the stems & branches.

      I would hand-prune the top of the plant fairly aggressively to shorten the plant (use your judgement) and then lightly tip-prune some of the side branches. This is a key point: Simply pruning just the tip of a branch will have the affect of encouraging side growth, which is what you’re after. To emphasize that point, you could even just “pinch” off the very tip of a branch with your fingernails and encourage side-growth.

      This strategy/regimen will take some time to see results, but it should help with eventually filling out the plant. If the boxwood is in partial shade it will be less full. So if this is the case, you may need to be even more patient.

  • Debra Vessels
    2:07 PM, 5 March 2017

    Thank you Roger for the quick reply. That is just the information I was looking for. Yes, it is in part shade, it is a healthy plant, and had I trimmed it every year I am sure it would be fuller. I am not so concerned with the width as I am with a fuller growth. I also planted one last year, 3′ tall, so I will begin this spring shaping them both up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *