I am standing at my kitchen window looking out across the vegie garden to the hills beyond. In the middle distance is a power pole. It is the only blot on the otherwise perfect outlook. I can only see it from this angle as the kitchen is elevated. In the garden it is out of sight, blocked out by small trees growing along the boundary. When those trees grow a little taller they’ll block the pole from the kitchen window too.

Screening is all a matter of perspective. When you look out on a multi-storey building, a neighbour’s house with an intrusive extension, or an ugly pole, you feel you need a towering tree to block it out. But the truth is you don’t. You only need something that’s tall enough to intercept your view – probably something that grows 3-7m high will be more than adequate. Indeed, planting a tree that ultimately gets too big creates an ongoing maintenance problem!

In a small garden having enough space to plant any tree is going to be the challenge, but nature has a solution in the form of tall narrow trees that are custom-made for privacy plantings along a boundary. As well as being tall but narrow, these plants generally don’t have invasive roots, don’t need regular pruning and don’t steal all the light by casting dense shade.

Top three trees for narrow spaces

Here are my top choices for your screening problem. All are evergreen, trouble-free and fast growing. They tolerate sun or part shade.

1.     Blueberry ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus) pictured above. This is my number one choice. Not only tall, evergreen and fairly fast growing, it also has pretty fringed white or pink flowers in spring and early summer that stand out against its serrated green leaves. But wait, there’s more! It also produces blueberry-like fruit in summer and autumn (good for local birds). In a narrow space, they rarely exceed 5-7m tall however if given the space or in very good conditions they can grow up to 15m tall. This tree is native to eastern Australia. In narrow spaces plant around 2-3m apart.

2.     Pittosporum (Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Sheen’). There are many pittosporum species and cultivars that can be grown as narrow screening trees. ‘Silver Sheen’ is a good choice as it has attractive silvery green leaves that can brighten a dull spot. They grow 4-5m tall but are leafy right to ground level. They need well drained soil but regular water. They grow in full sun but are best in a cooler situation with protection from hot summer sun. These pittosporums are native to New Zealand. Plant around 2m apart.

3.     Lilly Pilly (Syzygium ‘Resilience’). As with the pittosporums above there are also many lilly pillies for trouble free screening situations. All are Australian natives and have glossy green leaves, white flowers in spring or early summer and red or purple edible fruit in summer and autumn. ‘Resilience’ has resistance to lilly pilly pysllid, a native pest that distorts new growth, and easily reaches 3-4m high. Keep well watered especially through summer. Plant around 1.5m apart.

Other options for tall narrow evergreen screening: sasanqua camellias, photinia, evergreen ash (Fraxinus griffithii), murraya and viburnum.