columnar cereus plant

Plants for Narrow Spaces

by / 17 Comments / 9009 View / March 22, 2011

Planting in narrow garden beds is as much an art form as a challenge for many garden designers, myself included!

The dilemma begins at the garden center.



plants in pots


Beautiful, petite shrubs in one-gallon pots and streamlined trees in 15 gallon containers can be deceptive.

All plants grow tall and wide, just like babies and puppies, so you better know what you are planting before digging in!



You need “vertical plants!”


If you have a small, narrow yard the trick is to find plants that grow taller than wide.

Think about it.


You can fit more NBA basket ball players and super models in a small yard than sumo wrestlers, right?



columnar cereus plant



Columnar Cereus is a great example of a tall plant that fits into a narrow garden bed.

Burglars beware!

You won’t be entering through these windows!



Tips and  creative ideas for selecting plants and trees for your small space


  • Select tress that have a narrow ,slender, or columnar shape. Palm, Cypress, Gingkos and Crape Myrtle trees fit into this category. Research trees that are ideal for your climate.


palm tree trunk decor

Metal art decor dresses up a plain looking Palm tree trunk.




hawthorne bush transformed to small tree


  • Transform a tall, woody shrub into a small tree by removing some of the low, lateral branches.


Wisteria tree image from

  • Train a woody vine such as this Wisteria into a small, blooming tree!



metal support

This reinforced metal cage is used to support and train the “Wisteria tree”



golden goddess bamboo hedge


Need a privacy hedge?

Golden Goddess clumping bamboo fits beautifully into this very narrow planting space.



papayrus against wall

Cyperus papayrus is a lush, tall leggy plant that looks dramatic against a wall or in tight garden spaces like this one.



lavender against wall


Narrow pathways and tiny garden beds like this one are perfect for aromatic lavender.

Brush up against it and be rewarded with perfume!

Lavender is pliable and if it gets too wide, trim the outer stems back.


ornamental grass and sweet potato


Strappy plants and ornamental grasses are also ideal plants for narrow areas.

Remove foliage around the perimeter to control it’s “girth size”

Girth Control!


plant a vine over an arch


Plant your favorite vine over an arch to direct the eye upwards in a small garden.



vertical wall garden


A vertical wall garden can make a huge impact on a yard that is mostly concrete or patio!

Plant cascading evergreen and flowering plants.



three tiered garden containers


Maximize the impact of seasonal or annual flowers by planting them in stacked containers that are placed within the small garden bed.

This is a great example of a three tiered container garden vignette.



tall narrow plants and trees


Here’s an example of one of my small garden designs with plenty of tall, vertical elements and plants.

A water fountain is flanked by climbing roses in the background, tall, airy, Kangaroo Paw hedges, strappy daylilies and white tree roses

Keep in mind that if you don’t have room for rose bushes, tree roses are a wonderful compromise.


So, don’t tell me your yard is too small to be interesting!

It’s up to you, go out and garden and don’t be afraid to be creative!


More resources for small gardens:

Garden designers, Rebecca Sweet and Susan Morrison tackle the issue of small garden design in their new book about vertical gardening:

Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces


Please visit the following blogs from members of the Garden Designers Roundtable which I am proud to be  a member of.

We’re  all writing about vertical and small garden design this month!


Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX »
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA »
Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT »
Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA »
Tara Dillard : Vanishing Threshold : Atlanta, GA »












17 Comment

  1. HI Scot,
    thanks for letting me know the post was useful for you! If you need any suggestions, just ask.

  2. Cool post, Shirley. I am in the process of trying to use plants for privacy on my fence. There’s a gate that slides open to let the car through, so the space is very narrow. Your pics are giving me some more ideas.

    I thought our readers might like this post, too so I tweeted you (@lochnessponds)


  3. Hi Jared. Thanks for visiting EdenMakers and for commenting. I visited your blog today and love your posts! Hope your landscape business grows and grows!

  4. This is a great post. Narrow spaces are very difficult to deal with but they are also very common. Good ideas! Thanks!

  5. Here is a topic I love. I have always wanted to have a big garden in a huge yard, but the reality of city living is making due with what space we have. Thanks for the insight!

  6. Very informative post. Actually it is common sense gardening when it comes to limited space, particularly narrow ones. “My space is too small to have a garden” is lame excuse. By the way, great pics.

  7. Thank you Robert. Your compliment is very encouraging!

  8. Thank you Scott! Another great subject tackled by Garden Designers Roundtable. Thanks for your leadership.

  9. Thanks Rebecca! You’ve got plenty of clever quotes in you too. I wish you and Susan phenomenal success with your book, “Garden Up!” You present information that people need these days with their tiny lots.

  10. […] Shirley Bovshow: Edenmaker, Los Angeles, CA […]

  11. What beautiful photos, Shirley! And I LOVE the cereus – wish we could grow them up here in Norcal! And I really wish I had thought of that line “You can fit more NBA basket ball players and super models in a small yard than sumo wrestlers, right?” Brilliant!!

  12. Shirley, great suggestions for this topic!

    The stacked planters (Brass?) are amazing, and the Miscanthus exploding out of the Ipomoea is absolutely stunning!

  13. Dear Shirley,
    What a complete wealth of ideas there are in your piece!
    You are SO talented.
    And I love your humour!

  14. Pruning up shrubs is often done by the deer here so we just ‘fix’ what they’ve started! The supports for that wisteria? Here, Wisteria is a thug and would pull down that dainty support system in just a year or two!

  15. […] : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA » Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT » Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA » Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA » Tara Dillard : Vanishing Threshold : […]

  16. […] Shirley Bovshow — EdenMakers — Los Angeles, CA […]

  17. Shirley, I love the poolside planting. Those papyrus look elegant against that dark-stained fence. And the tiered planting bowls are intriguing too. You’ve provided lots of beautiful inspiration!

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