Living Fence


I would like to plant a living fence alongside a lot line. It would be about a dozen metres, end to end, and a very narrow depth, maybe a quarter of a metre, front to back. I would like to keep the final height to one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half metres. I prefer something deciduous. I am prepared to train or weave the stems/branches over the years, with or without some supports, but eventually it has to stand on its own. I think the trunks/stems need to be quite woody. I have seen videos where people use willow but I’m afraid that could get out of control after a few years. The line is north-east to south-west. The east/south side has shade from mature trees over half of the area. The west side has lots of late afternoon sun. Zone 5b. Which species are possibilities to plant?


Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners.

There are not many woody plants that are as narrow as you would like. I did find a few plants that largely fit your requirements.

  • Green Spire Euonymus (Euonymus japonicus ‘Green Spire’) is a fast-growing shrub with glossy, green foliage. It maxes out at 6 to 8 feet in height with a spread of just 1 to 2 feet. It is hardy to USDA zone 6 which means hardy to -18 to -23 C. Full sun to part shade.
  • Van den Akker Nootka cypress (Chamaecyparis nootakatensis ‘Vanden Akker’) is one of the thinnest of the weeping Alaska cedars. It is fast growing and after 10 years can reach 10 feet, and ultimately could reach 20 feet tall but is only 1 foot wide! It is hardy from zones 5-8. Full sun or light to open shade. You would need to prune this to maintain your target height. Pruning to retain the weeping shape could be challenging.
  • Dwarf Pencil Point Juniper (Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’): This slow growing, sun-loving columnar evergreen grows to about 5 feet and a width of just 1 foot. Winter hardy to -40 C. Full sun.
  • Dwarf Columnar European Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Columnaris Nana’) The dark green foliage of summer turns golden yellow in the fall. This tree requires little pruning, reaches a height of 6 to 8 feet and spreads 2-4 feet. It is hardy to zone 5. Full sun to part shade.

I would take this list to your local nursery and ask which plant would best suit the location you had in mind. They may have additional recommendations based on their knowledge of the local area.