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People who go broke in a big way never miss any meals. It is the poor jerk who is shy a half slug who must tighten his belt.
Robert A. Heinlein

Emerald Spire Crabapple

Block of skinny tree waiting to go to a new home.

Skinny Trees

Columnar, narrow trees for people without much room

Two years ago if you asked me how to screen your back yard from your neighbor's view, the answer was simple. Swedish Aspen. Alas, Bronze Leaf Disease is here to stay; there is no known treatment of it, and few trees last more than 3 years.

So what do you do instead? Here are some options.


Parkland Pillar Asian White Birch 30-35 feet by 6-7 feet. Summer foliage is dark green. Birch generally have a nicer yellow in the fall. In winter you have white bark and chocolate twigs.

Emerald Spire Rosybloom Crabapple 15 feet x 6 feet. Bronze-green foliage. 2 weeks of bright pink flowers in June. Red leaves in fall.

Purple Spire Rosybloom Crabapple 15 feet x 6 feet. Emerald's sister. Purple foliage. Only a light bloomer.

Prairie Skyrise Trembling Aspen 30 feet x 4 feet. This is a mutation of our native aspen. Even more columnar than swedish aspen. Will it get BLD? Right now no one knows, but barring a mutation in the fungus the answer is probably "no".

Prairie Sky Poplar 80 feet x 12 feet. More disease resistant than Tower, but from the same parentage. Not right for city lots, but impressive on an acreage.

Sundancer Poplar 40 feet x 10 feet. Bit better bet for a city lot, or for use close to buildings if the thought of an 80 foot tree nearby makes you nervous.

Emerald Spire Crabapple

Parkland Pillar birch. Mature size 35 feet tall x 7 feet wide. 2 feet a year.


Sundancer. Mature it will be about 40 feet tall and 10 wide. Takes about 15 years to get there.


Emerald and purple spire crabs in my demo garden.

Alder A fast growing native shrub with dark green leaves. Tops out between 10 and 15 feet depending on water and sunlight. Somewhat shade tolerant. Needs yearly pruning to look good, but this allows you to shape it to nearly anything you want. Prune during the dormant season.


If all you want is effectively raise the height of the fence so your neighbor's upstairs windows don't look into your back yard, you may not need a tree. Here are some smaller possibilities.

Standing Ovation Saskatoon 15 feet x 4 feet. Edible berries in early summer. Bright red fall foliage.

Skybound Cedar 10-18 feet x 3-4 feet. One of the best cedars for our climate. Not a swift grower. Needs to be kept damp, but not soggy.

Native Chokecherry 10 feet x 4 feet. Somewhat vase shaped, so mowing near the base is easy. Prune to make it get thicker. Nice green leaves, that turn pink and orange in the fall. Small black berries that can be used for jam, or left for the birds.

Native High Bush Cranberry 10 feet x 5 feet. Small white flowers in spring, dark green three-lobed leaves that turn bright red in fall.

Native Pussy Willow 12 feet x 5 feet. Early bud break, late fall leaf drop. Beautiful 3/4" fuzzy catkins in early spring. Likes damp. If your grass stays green all summer, it will be happy.

Common Osier Willow 10 feet x 6 feet. Can be pruned narrower.

Lilacs The common lilac likes to get 8-10 tall and about 4-5 wide, but it accepts hard pruning, so keeping it narrower is not hard. Lavender flowers in June with a lovely scent. Require about 5-10 minutes pruning each summer to take off the dead blossoms, and to remove ratty bits. There are numerous named cultivars in a variety of colours and sizes, ranging from 3 feet to 18 feet.

I used 10 feet as my lower limit here, as most people are looking for privacy. If something lower may suit you, check out the hedges page.

Got something to say? Email me: sfinfo@sherwoods-forests.com

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Want to talk right now? Call me: (8 am to 8 pm only, please) 1-780-848-2548

Do not arrive unannounced. Phone for an appointment. Why? See Contact & Hours That same page gives our hours of operation.

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Copyright © 2008 - 2021 S. G. Botsford

Sherwood's Forests is located about 75 km southwest of Edmonton, Alberta. Please refer to the map on our Contact page for directions.