Trees for Small Gardens – Deciduous Evergreen & Topiary Choices

Planning a garden in a small space has its challenges, not the least of which is finding the best trees for small gardens. Luckily, there are many lovely small specimen trees to tuck into even the tiniest of city gardens! Many of these would even work in a courtyard or on a roof terrace where space is even more limited. When you can only fit in a few, you need trees that can deliver year-round interest, and we have lots to choose from. Below are perhaps the best of the best. We cover suggestions for deciduous, evergreen and topiary trees for small gardens.

A pair of fastigiate trees punctuate a water feature in an Italianate garden
A pair of fastigiate trees punctuate a water feature in an Italianate garden

1. Deciduous trees for small gardens

Read more Trees for Small Gardens – Deciduous Evergreen & Topiary Choices

Fastigiate or Columnar Evergreens

An important characteristic to note when choosing trees and plants is their natural growing habit. Fastigiate or columnar evergreens have a naturally tall and narrow habit of growing with erect branches that have the appearance of forming an erect column.

Columnar Evergreens
A pair of fastigiate or columnar evergreens punctuate a water feature in an Italianate garden


Columnar evergreen trees can be used to great effect to punctuate your garden or outside space. They also serve as an ideal immediate and elegant evergreen screen or hedge when planted close together. They are very practical in smaller gardens as they are very space efficient being tall yet narrow.

If you happen to lose a plant and are left with a vacant slot,  consider planting a columnar evergreen tree to fill empty corners or spaces in the garden. Providing vertical interest by using taller plants or trees tends to particularly attract the eye. You can take advantage of this to emphasise attractive aspects of your garden. There are many types of columnar evergreens with varying textures and shapes. Here are a few of our favourites:

Irish Yew (Taxus Baccata Fastigiata) which has dark green foliage and / or the Golden Irish Yew with its beautiful yellow golden foliage are good examples of columnar evergreens.  As you can see from the golden Irish Yew pictured below from a County Cork garden, Taxus Baccata Fastigiata Aurea has a beautiful tall and tubular growth habit, not unlike pencil cypress trees, more typically featured in Italianate gardens. The beautiful pillar or tower-like shape and the glorious yellow tinge to the foliage are clearly visible, truly embellishing the autumnal scene.

Many of you have Italianate or Mediterranean themed gardens. Complete the look with the beautiful Italian Pencil Cypress (Cupressus Sempervirens). A pair of Italian pencil pines also look stylish when framing a doorway or any entrance or path. These can also be used to line driveways, particularly smaller ones as they don’t take up so much depth space.

Tip: If you are based in an exposed and windy area, as alternative to Italian Pencil Pine, you could also consider our Thuja Smaragd Pencil Cypress trees, which have a neat, conical growth habit but are somewhat hardier than the pencil cypress.

Other fastigiate trees to consider are False Cypress or Lawson’s Cypress (Chamaecyparis Lawsoniana Columnaris). This evergreen has striking blue green foliage that is fragrant and has an elegant columnar shape. It is very suitable for use as hedging or screening.

Juniper Sky Rocket (Juniperus Scopulorum Skyrocket) is a columnar evergreen with attractive blue foliage. It is slow-growing and an excellent specimen conifer where punctuation is required.

Calocedrus Decurrens otherwise known as the Incense Cedar Tree, is another evergreen conifer with a columnar habit. This is a somewhat larger or wider fastigiate and can get to be quite a large tree so make sure you have enough space for this one.  A variegated relative is called Calocedrus Decurrens Aureovariegata. This conifer also has an attractive narrow upright habit, though somewhat wider that most of the conifers featured in this post. It is a beautiful evergreen conifer with dark green sprays of foliage interspersed with flashes of golden yellow. Magnificent when the sun catches the foliage.

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A mature Golden Irish Yew – Taxus Baccata Fastigiata Aurea
A most popular columnar evergreen – a mature Golden Irish Yew or Taxus Baccata Fastigiata Aurea
Pencil Cypress - the ultimate columnar evergreen
Pencil Cypress – the ultimate columnar evergreen

2016 Year of the English garden

Named year of the English garden, 2016 promises to be an exciting year for UK gardeners. 2016 also marks the 300th anniversary of Capability Brown. Born in 1716, he is arguably the most acclaimed of all British garden designers with iconic gardens such as Blenheim Palace and Chatsworth to his illustrious name. He is famed for his open natural landscapes complete with rolling hills, water features that look anything but artificial and dramatic use of majestic specimen trees. There will be many events throughout the country all through the year celebrating his gardens and gardens inspired by his designs. More info on the Visit England website… Read more 2016 Year of the English garden