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Syracuse, New York
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 Overgrown Evergreens


Homes hidden by overgrown evergreens are everywhere! A conversation I often find myself having goes something like this;

Homeowner: We’re planning on pulling out all of the old, overgrown evergreens in front of our house. We were always pruning them to keep them from getting too big and they were just plain ugly. What kinds of low maintenance evergreens can we plant that will stay small so that we won’t have to prune them?

Me: Well, how much room do you have to work with between the front wall of your home and the sidewalk leading to the front door, as well as from the ground to the bottom of your windows?

Very few evergreens stay small enough to fit between the front walk and foundation of many homes.Homeowner: Oh, I’m not sure - maybe three or four feet between the house and the sidewalk, and the bottom of the windows are three or four feet off the ground.

Me: A space that small doesn’t leave you with many options for evergreens. About the only evergreens that will fit that space without needing to be pruned are several of the small boxwood cultivars such as `Green Velvet,’ ‘Green Gem,’ and/or ‘Green Mountain,’ or possibly some of the smaller evergreen Japanese holly cultivars?

Homeowner: What about yews? That’s what we’re taking out, but we really like the way they look - except when they get too big. Are there any yews that stay small?

Me: Technically, yes. I’ve seen very rare, dwarf forms in botanical gardens. However, to my knowledge, there are no commercially available forms that stay anywhere near small enough to fit in the space between your house and front walk without pruning.

Homeowner: Well, we really like the way they look. I guess maybe we’ll just plant new ones and just make sure to keep them pruned so they don’t get so big next time?

So . . . . . . , does this conversation sound familiar?

If you’re like most homeowners, my experience suggests that you’d like evergreen trees to mature at about twenty feet tall and about ten feet wide - just tall enough to block the view of the two-story home next door. Meanwhile, you’d probably be happy if most of your evergreen shrubs matured at just three to four feet tall and wide.

Am I right?

If so, we have a big problem (no pun intended).

You see, all but the most “miniature” coniferous (conebearing) evergreen shrubs will likely grow at least four to six feet tall and wide over a ten to fifteen year period of time according to standards adopted by the American Conifer Society. Meanwhile, there are very few coniferous evergreen trees that mature at heights of less than thirty to forty feet and diameters of less than fifteen to twenty feet.

To help you make informed decisions when it comes to adding evergreen trees and shrubs to your landscape, I’ve compiled this list of mature sizes of 88 coniferous evergreen trees and shrubs that are generally available at Central New York garden centers and specified/installed by local landscape architects, landscape designers and landscape contractors.

Because growers across the country produce well over 200 evergreen tree and shrub species and cultivars, this list is far from exhaustive. However, if you find a plant that’s not included in this list, there a number of reference books and websites at the end of this fact sheet where you might find additional information on its potential mature size.