Compact Trees - Good Things Come in Small Packages

Compact Trees – Good Things Come in Small Packages

By Shane Neufeld and Christina McDonald

In the nursery, customers often ask us to recommend trees small enough to fit an urban landscape. Many have battled with a tree that has overgrown its site – branches endangering power lines and roots invading flowerbeds. However, there are plenty of compact choices with shorter heights, narrower spreads, and more balanced forms than typical trees.

Know What You Want

Before you choose a compact tree, try to estimate how large you'd like it to be at its full growth. You should also take into account how much sunlight is available, what your soil conditions are, and what function you would like your tree to accomplish—will it provide shade, screen off unpleasant views, fit in with an existing theme? Do you want fall colour, or an evergreen? By knowing these things before you head to the nursery, you stand a much better chance of finding a plant that suits your garden.

The Short List

These are some of our favourite compact trees. Some of the varieties mentioned here are naturally compact, while others are the result of hybridization programs. All are great choices for gardeners looking for big beauty in a small package. Regardless of your space and design constraints, there are many varieties to meet your needs.

Dwarf Deciduous Shade Trees

Fast-growing and particularly disease resistant, 'Assiniboine' and 'Prairie Sky' poplars are great choices for smaller yards. Also check out 'Bailey's Schubert' chokecherry, 'Snowbird' or 'Toba' hawthorn, 'Advance' mayday, or 'Columnar European Mountain' ash.

Compact Ornamental Fruit Trees

Ornamental fruit trees provide an awesome spring showing of blooms, attractive small fruits and frequently great fall colour. 'Mountain Frost' pear and 'Rosy Glo' or 'Siberian Columnar' crabapples are terrific compact ornamental fruits.

Dwarf Fruit Trees

You don't have to have a huge amount of space to enjoy fresh fruit from your tree. Dwarf apple trees have normal sized fruits of exactly the same variety as full-sized trees, but with more manageable yields. Look for dwarf 'Norland,' 'Norkent,' 'Fall Red,' 'Goodland,' and 'September Ruby.' 


Columnar evergreens are always popular, and 'Brandon,' 'Degroots Spire,' and 'Holmstrup' cedars offer very narrow columnar forms in a variety of heights. Junipers such as 'Blue Arrow,' 'Cologreen,' and 'Grey Gleam' or spruces like 'Cupress,' 'Dwarf Serbian' and 'Iseli Columnar Blue' are definitely varieties worth trying.

Iseli Trees

Our Terraces are now stocked with dozens of different varieties of beautiful and rare conifers and evergreens, spanning in size from giant forest trees to tiny miniatures.


Conifers provide an exciting array of colour from the darkest greens through the brightest yellows, blues and even red tones. 

The flowering parts of many conifers can add seasonal interest with their colours ranging from bright scarlet reds, pinks and purples to soft shades of green, yellow and orange.

Here are a few of the unique varieties we have this year:


"Uncle Fogy" Pinus Banksiana  - Wildly undulating, pendulous branches give unique character to every plant of this distinctive form of Jack Pine.

The plants bend and swoop to create a curvy, living sculpture decorated with resinous winter buds.

This collector's plant, first discovered in a garden in Richfield, Minnesota, seems to be a reference to everyone's eccentric relative. Extremely hardy and adaptable, "Uncle Fogy" tolerates heat, cold, and dry, sandy or poor soils.


"Horstmann's Silberlocke" Abies koreana  - This Colourful, hardy Korean Fir stands out in the garden with stunning two-toned needles.

The Needles of this small, pyramidal tree are recurved, displaying the silver-white undersides which give a gleaming colour and uncommonly beautiful textural effect.


"Formanek" Picea Abies  - This radically prostrate, slow-growing form of Norway Spruce will become a densely matted, spreading carpet over time.

If staked up, it's arching, weeping branches cascade down and create a pendulous form. Unstaked, it is the perfect plant to creep over and around rocks and walls.


"Westerstede" Pinus Cemba - Named for an ancient German city in a nursery region similar to Oregon's Willamette Valley, this beautiful pine represents the finest in hardy garden conifers.

Long luxurious needles give the small upright tree a full, fluffy look. Slower and wider than other cembras, it has graceful branching, attractive colour, and striking cones that offer year-round interest and character in a small space.


Come down to Hole's to see all the different varieties we have available this year!