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The Best Columnar Trees

By Robin Odach
Columnar trees give vertical definition to landscapes.

Uniform-size branches give columnar trees their shape. Trees such as quaking aspens, tulip trees and sugar maples are often used as screens to shield problem areas, create wind blocks and to control traffic flow. The Virginia Cooperative Extension recommends doing some tree research before making a selection. Find out how big and how quickly the tree grows. Ask if the tree has litter such as mulberries, crabapples and seedpods. Find out if the tree is compatible with your soil and weather before committing.

Eastern Redcedar Skyrocket

Skyrocket is a cultivar of Juniperus virginiana and has a lifespan of 50 years. It has a silver-blue, lacy-textured foliage that turns slightly brown in the winter months. They grow 25 to 35 feet tall, have a columnar shape and a crown density of 6 to 8 feet. Female trees have blue berries and are considered ornamental when heavily laden. These trees have a great number of good qualities. They are tolerant of drought and sea salt, have no serious threat of pests or diseases and tolerate either shade or sun. Skyrockets grow in zones 3 to 9, and their fragrance is known to repel insects.

Gingko Biloba

Gingko trees grow in zones 3 to 8 and form pyramidal columns from 50 to 65 feet. Gingkos are included in urban development plans because they are tolerant of pollution, resistant to storm damage and will grow in almost any well-drained soil. Their columnar shape makes them suitable for street use when overhead space is limited. The green leaves turn to brilliant yellow in the fall but last only a short time. Gingkos are known for their drought tolerance and resistance to diseases and pests, including the devastating gypsy moth. The U.S. Forest Service states that Gingkos have been growing on earth for over 150 million years.

Sweetbay Magnolia

Magnolia virginiana is a good choice for patios and shady areas when a wide columnar tree is desired. The tree prefers a moist environment and grows naturally along streams, woodlands and swampy areas in zones 5 through 10. It provides vertical definition when placed with lower growing shrubs and is often planted as a specimen tree. The leaves on the tree shimmer when the wind blows because they have white undersides, giving the tree a lot of interest and charm. Creamy-white flowers appear in June and stay until September, giving the air a sweet, lemony fragrance. Red seeds follow the flowers, which attract birds and wildlife.