sunny location. Oakville. poor soil. dry.
I have a very small yard and would like to create more of a clean courtyard feel with better privacy. I’d like to have a privacy screen about 10-15 feet tall and as narrow as possible. I’m worried about the invasive nature of ivy (?) Is there a columnar evergreen that can be kept to 2 feet width?
Two possibilities for you might be the slim columnar Juniper “Skyrocket”, or the columnar Cedar, Thuja occidentalis “DeGroot’s Spire”.
“DeGroot’s Spire” is a narrow dwarf Cedar variety that will reach a height of 15 feet over about that many years. It is the narrowest of the columnar Cedar varieties, and will likely attain a 3-4 foot width at maturity. Its preference is for fertile, well-drained soil, but it is somewhat forgiving of poor soil quality. Cedars in general do not tolerate extremely dry conditions, so you will need to water regularly, especially as they establish themselves. DeGroot’s Spire will tolerate some pruning for shape to keep it within the narrow space you want it to occupy.
The “Skyrocket” Juniper is a very popular choice. It is the narrowest of the conifers, and will take some time to reach the 2 foot width. It is forgiving of soil quality, and in particular of dry soils, so this may be a better choice for you. In addition, Junipers respond well to shearing for shape.
Although both of these examples are somewhat forgiving of soil quality, a fertile, well-drained soil is preferred, and it is always a good idea to amend your soil by adding organic material such as compost.
Here is a previous Toronto Master Gardeners’ post on the Degroot’s Spire cedar, which also has some helpful planting information. https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/askagardener/degroot-cedar-minimum-light-level-needs/
When you are looking at trees in the nursery, please do take into account their planting directions, particularly in terms of distance from each other: it is important not to overcrowd your young evergreens as they need good sunlight, access to moisture and air circulation to thrive.