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Ideas for creating privacy screen, building off current fence lin

maryma
9 years ago

New to the site and hoping to get some helpful ideas for planting a privacy screen. Neighbors yard is quite lovely and mature however there is a continual visual assault with random stuff and so we have decided to cut our loss of this view, (see current burns piles, there year round, cooler, etc.) sadly, and just put up a screen and make our side attractive. Looking for trees to provide a screen but also some interest without eating up our space. (This is our side yard, lots of space in front and back as well, acre lot.) Thuja is one idea but I hate that they get sooooo tall and am unsure about what pruning them Down would look like. Other ideas? Soil is quite good (old farm land) but clay base deep, lower lying area so does have some standing water after a substantial rain (gone after a day), 1.5 miles from ocean (marsh) as the crow flies, east/west facing , partial sun. Just put up a 5k fence to block out the rest of their yard,(you can see end of it on right of photo), so budget IS a factor. Happy to answer any other questions you have, ANY advice GREATLY appreciated, see photos for sense of space, taken from driveway, same view from kitchen sink, up a level). THANK YOU for your time. :-). Could only get one pic on here, happy to send others to give better sense of space!

Comments (34)

  • maryma
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    thanks for your inquiry. The orientation of plant/tree placement is right to left in photo from where fence ends on right to adjacent woods on left. (along small white steaks on ground), it is about 15 feet depth form driveway edge in photo. I want to preserve as much of land as possible, here is another photo of land/fence to the right to help orient you. Sun is full to partial depending on time of day, yes Willows are lovely, but we want coverage from ground up to screen out burn pile etc., we do have lovely willow just to right, see photo.

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  • bill_ri_z6b
    9 years ago

    I know you mentioned negative thoughts of Thuja, but I have a row of Thuja "Emerald Green", and I chose it specifically because it stays narrow (3-4 feet at most) and not too tall (10-15) feet. It is a strong grower, deep, healthy green all year round, and so far has had no pests or browning at all. It's NOT your typical or old-flashioned Thuja. Might be worth a look, and they are available in larger sizes at a reasonable cost. I paid $90 for 9-10 foot tall ones. They grow well but stay close and tight.

    {{gwi:5901}}

  • edlincoln
    9 years ago

    I tend to prefer Eastern Red Cedar to Arborvitae. Eastern Red Cedar has a less attractive color but has berries that attract birds and is super tough.

    If you want something lower and more prunable,I like Holly and Rhododendron as privacy screens.

    There is also the option of putting up a fence and planting a vine that will climb it.

  • bill_ri_z6b
    9 years ago

    I chose this particular hybrid Thuja because of it's obedient growth habit. I can no longer prune, trim or clip any form of hedge or screen. I once had a Canadian hemlock "hedge" that got out of hand very quickly and had to be removed. Never again would I plant anything as a hedge or screen that will need any pruning or trimming, or can outgrow my ability.

    {{gwi:5901}}

  • maryma
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    Thank you Bill and Ed. Yes, these are both options I am considering after a fair amount of time researching yesterday I came up with these options...
    Thulja Can Can, Steeplechase Western Red Cedar, Spartan Juniper, Columnar Blue Spruce and Skyrocket Juniper.

    Bill, I think the Emerald Green is likely what I want. I kept going to Thujas but the size is what kept scaring me away and I, like you, don't want to commit to pruning as we already have A LOT of maintenance to keep up with elsewhere in the front and back portions of our yard. Sounds like you got a very reasonable deal on yours. I will have to do some homework on price now. Can you tell me how far apart yours are spaced and how long they have taken to grow together to form hedge? Also a final question, a big factor I forgot to mention, we have frequently visiting deer. Are these like other Thujas deer resistant?

    Ed, is your Western Red Cedar a Steeple Chase? Those also are appealing due to their size. Another thought I had is to alternate two types of tree for added interest. Not so sure about these two together though. How are yours spaced? Do they form a solid hedge? height at which you purchased and approx. price? Thanks so much!

    Thanks again to you both for your valued input.

    Mary

  • claireplymouth z6b coastal MA
    9 years ago

    Mary: The recommendations you've gotten from Bill and edlincoln are excellent. I just want to strongly urge you to avoid Skyrocket Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum 'Skyrocket'). I purchased four of them a few years ago - two of them are barely alive now, the other two died quickly of juniper fungal disease, probably tip blight. I mentioned this to personnel at Katsura Gardens in Plymouth and he said that J. scopulorum should not even be sold here in the east because of the fungal disease problems.

    It's a shame; they were beautiful for a very short time but not so beautiful when brown and mostly dead. Eastern Red Cedar is rampant in my area of Massachusetts so some junipers are fine, just not J. scopulorum.

    Claire

    This post was edited by claire on Mon, Sep 2, 13 at 11:24

  • edlincoln
    9 years ago

    I was recommending Eastern Red Cedar, (Juniperus virginiana ) not Western. I'm not familiar with Western Red Cedar but I think it's bigger and less cylindrical. I'm mostly familiar with the wild version of Eastern Red Cedar. In shape it is very similar to Thuja, and like Thuja isn't a hedge exactly but can be planted close together to form a pretty solid wall. Doesn't require pruning but eventually will get fairly tall. It's not as nice a color (sort of a dull dark green), but has small blue berries birds like and is more salt and drought tolerant. (Less tolerant of swampy soils.) It's technically a juniper that due to convergent evolution has become something similar to arborvitae or European cedar.

    Say, we should have asked you this before. What part of the country are you in? What climate zone, what type of soil? (Clay, sand, good soil, etc.) Some of our suggestions might not be options in your location.

    This post was edited by edlincoln on Mon, Sep 2, 13 at 13:34

  • corunum z6 CT
    9 years ago

    Hello, Mary, and welcome. I also have deer that frequent my yard and they all grew taller and fatter on 10 Emerald Green arborvitae that I planted as 5' tall B&B plants in what I thought would be a good corner border. One winter later, there was a band of brown around the middle of the whole line of trees exactly where the deer ate the branches. Deer are fairly lazy and didn't take off the tops or bottoms; they removed a band of branches about 14" wide where it was comfortable for them to eat without having to stretch too much. Two winters later, I could see through the now naked belt on the arborvitae which, if I blurred my eyes, looked like modern art. But it really looked like a belly-bare border.

    Building a berm in the corner with 10 yards of new soil, the hauling of the B&Bs, planting, etc., was done solo, by my hands, so I had the duty of removing them as well 3 years later. After a few trips to the gardening section of my local library and lots of online looking at border gardens, I decided to go with mostly native flowering shrubs 8-10' tall (shorter if I prune) and ornamental trees that top out at around 20-25' tall - flowering trees (Prairiefire crabapple, pear, thunder cloud plum,etc.) and Japanese maples, bitula nigra (birch). The mixed border of flowering shrubs, some grasses and some herbaceous things, such as persicaria polymorpha that grows to 7' tall every year, is now dependable privacy and gives pretty much, year round interest. For me, a border of varying depths and heights works well and provides privacy that doesn't draw a distinct line between the properties. Evergreens like rhododendrons and azaleas and short-growing pines placed strategically, block out what I don't want to see in the wintertime. A mixed border is also not subject to being entirely lost by a single disease affecting all plants, as Claire mentioned above. I use an organic deer spray when I remember to use it, and it took a few years to change the deer path, but their visiting and tasting has decreased significantly. Once in a while, they'll nip some hydrangeas that I didn't spray on time.

    The mixed border works well for me and gave me the opportunity to try as many different types of plants that I found appealing and suitable to my land. Have a look at mixed native garden borders online (Google images) and check the library. Claire has established a list of books on this site that are titles submitted by members here. Not a bad place to start. Good luck, think it all through and see which type of border appeals to you. Many natives are suitable to your land. (talked too much - post too long - bye)

    Kindly,
    Jane

    Here is a link that might be useful: Mixed Border

  • diggingthedirt
    9 years ago

    Welcome to the forum, Mary!

    I agree with Jane that a mixed border is usually more reliable and attractive, even where space is limited. I always think that a straight row of thuja or other hedge plants looks out of place in a rural landscape, and is more at home in a suburban or urban yard. In neighborhoods with big lots, a tall hedge practically screams 'bad neighbors'!

    So, if you're going with the thuja you might want to add something in front of it to break up that look. Some native hollies might be good, either the deciduous winterberry or something like ilex glabra (depending on your zone).

    At this time of year you can often pick up 'odds and ends' of really desirable shrubs for very little money, even at good nurseries, so you might want to head out to your favorite local shop with a shrub book in hand before you make your decision. If you spot any ilex pedunculosa, that might be a good choice, too. Much less formal than a hedge, but good for screening.

  • diggerdee zone 6 CT
    9 years ago

    Hi Mary, and welcome!

    Lots of good suggestions here. I too tend to lean toward the mixed shrub border, but I did see that you wanted to retain as much of the land as possible, and I'm not sure how the mixed border would affect this. My thinking is that it would take up more space than a straight row of one thing, because I'm envisioning some staggering of placement happening, but I do think it would be more aesthetically pleasing as well. Perhaps someone else can chime in with thoughts on the depth of such a border, as I have never actually done one myself.

    Dee

  • maryma
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    Hi all, thanks so much for taking the time to suggest all of these ideas. Ed, We are in eastern MA, 1/2 hour north of Boston, fairly rural town, the soil is quite good as our property at one point was used for farming, however there is a clay base when you dig beyond a couple feet. This area is the lower part of our yard and with a significant fall of rain, water will stand for a day, but then drains pretty quickly. Suffice it to say our Large weeping willow is thriving adjacent to this area, see photo number two above.
    I like the mixed border idea, but space is an issue, so I couldn't go to crazy with it. Off to the local nurseries tomorrow to pick their brains with all of your wonderful suggestions in my mind.
    Will let you know how I fair, any other ideas certainly welcome.
    Main criteria:
    partial to full sun, full sun close to fence, partial close to woods, able to deal with soil that can get standing water (not more than a day) a couple times a year, Deer/rabbit friends :-),
    privacy from less than desirable neighbor, something that fits the character of what already exists and adds interest. Thanks everyone!

  • claireplymouth z6b coastal MA
    9 years ago

    Itea virginica (Virginia Sweetspire) would be very happy with occasional standing water and then dry spells. It's deciduous so not much of a screen in the winter but it has lovely, fragrant flowers in June and the leaves turn orange/maroon/purple in the fall. I have several here in Plymouth, MA and they've been trouble-free and low maintenance. They will sucker and spread if you let them. Bees love the flowers.

    Claire

  • edlincoln
    9 years ago

    Good I asked. Eastern Redcedar doesn't do as well in standing water as Arborvitae. I understand Eastern Redcedar is very deer resistant, however.

    American Holly (Ilex opaca) can handle occasional standing water, and can be trimmed into a hedge or allowed to grow into a tree.

    Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) of course can as well.

    diggingthedirt is right...many nurseries have some amazing deals this time of year. I also find there tend to be big sales on Holly at Lowes after the Christmas season.

    If you go with deciduous trees, you have more options...but no privacy in the winter.

    This post was edited by edlincoln on Tue, Sep 3, 13 at 15:12

  • bill_ri_z6b
    9 years ago

    Well if deer eat the Thuja "Emerald Green" then it may not be good for you. There are no deer here, so it's not a problem for me. A mixed border of deciduous shrubs is nice, but as mentioned here, no privacy in winter, not to mention leaves to clean up every fall. Also, you mentioned not wanting to have to prune and trim so much, and a mixed border would mean varying times for pruning different shrubs, as well as the amount of pruning some may need relative to others. I don't know if there's a perfect solution for a hedge/border. What about a trellis with an evergreen vine? Might be minimal maintenance and would provide privacy all year round with some color when it blooms. Or even more than one type of evergreen vine to have flowers for a longer time. For the first year or two you could plant faster growing annual vines for quick privacy until the perennial ones get established. Just another thought.

    {{gwi:5901}}

  • diggingthedirt
    9 years ago

    I agree that SOME deciduous plants don't provide a good visual barrier, but that depends a lot on their structural characteristics. Many magnolias are completely see-through when bare, while twiggy shrubs like Clethra alnifolia or deutzia provide very good privacy.

    I have mixed borders along most of 3 sides of my yard, consisting of mostly deciduous shrubs, and I have to say that they provide quite a lot of privacy.

    Also, I don't prune anything in those borders, as I like a natural-looking and informal garden - where the plants knit themselves together. I water newly planted borders pretty regularly for the first year, and if needed, the second. The only maintenance, once the shrubs are established, is the addition of wood chips or other mulch every couple of years.

  • bill_ri_z6b
    9 years ago

    DTD, true that some deciduous plants are better screens in winter than others. The reason I mentioned the narrow Thuja and then, in my last post, the trellis was because in the original post, Mary said she wanted to preserve as much land as possible. But maybe privacy isn't such a concern in winter anyway, as we are all generally tucked away indoors, complaining about the snow! So some narrow deciduous shrubs might work for her.

    {{gwi:5901}}

  • Daria1961
    9 years ago

    I have a similar problem, only the border is in deep shade! I'm growing some shrubs (twig dogwood, hazelnut, sloeberry, persimmon, juniper "*franklin park mix") from seed that I hope will someday create a screen. In the meantime, I'm searching for quick growing perennials native to the northeast that, hopefully, won't compete with my baby shrubs. My first try is going to be Jerusalem Artichoke. It won't be tall until August, but what will? *seeds I collected from the local park.

  • diggingthedirt
    9 years ago

    I have an effective screen in deep shade; years ago I purchased a dozen or more upright yew seedlings from one of the inexpensive catalogs. They were really tiny when they arrived - maybe 5 inches tall, so I held them in a nursery bed for a year or two.

    If you have deer, this wouldn't work for you, but otherwise, I have to say these are the fastest growing and most reliable evergreen shrubs for a shady border. I wouldn't want them anywhere where they'd be noticed, particularly, because they're so bland, but they grow fast and provide a nice solid background - and plenty of privacy. Mine are mostly under an old maple, where the conditions are terrible and nothing else will grow, not even my standby, euonymus Manhattan.

    The only thing less expensive and maybe equally effective is privet, which in my area is a pest - it self sows too freely. I have one giant old one in a very shady corner, and since I don't trim it, it's about 20 feet tall and was, until recently, about that big around. Of course it can be kept to any size, and we recently cut it back, width-wise, to get some more space for our work area.

    Good luck with your border - I'm not sure how well juniper will do in the shade, but I guess it's worth a try.

  • diggerdee zone 6 CT
    9 years ago

    DTD, how tall are your yews? I want to stick a few evergreens in the wooded area between my back neighbor and myself. Summertime is fine; we are completely blocked from each other by deciduous trees, but in the winter I feel a bit exposed. And I happen to like yews, lol. Thanks.

    Dee

  • diggingthedirt
    9 years ago

    My guess is about 12 feet tall - maybe 14. I'll need to go take a look to be sure - they're nearly invisible, planted behind deciduous shrubs and slower-growing evergreens (rhodies, hydrangea, dogwood).

    I wish I'd planted them along my long, exposed back fence, because the hollies I put there never got above 6 feet, and that's just not tall enough for privacy.

  • diggerdee zone 6 CT
    9 years ago

    Thanks for that info, dtd. I need something tall because the land slopes down toward the neighbor back there, so these might work. I planted some rhodies, but I don't think they'll ever get tall enough, being down on the slope.

    Thanks!
    Dee

  • prairiemoon2 z6b MA
    9 years ago

    I have a âÂÂWitchita Blueâ Juniper which I am sorry I bought. It has rust now and IâÂÂm getting ready to remove it. I find that frustrating to have lost at least 5 years of something else growing into that space and having to start over again. So you can not spend too much time, researching before you buy, so you donâÂÂt waste time and money.

    Jane, that is a very sad story about your âÂÂEmerald Greenâ Arborvitae. Very sad. What a lot of work. I like what you did instead. That Prairiefire Crabapple is one of my favorites.

    Mary, you did mention that your kitchen window looks out over that view. Personally, our kitchen window is probably the most looked out window in the house and I would want something interesting to look at. You also mentioned you would be sorry to lose the neighborâÂÂs âÂÂborrowedâ landscape. If you have something there that will lose itâÂÂs leaves in the winter, you might enjoy that change of scenery. And as Bill pointed out, in the winter, your neighbors will not be out in their yard.

    Since I don't have deer problems or standing water issues, I'd be hesitant to recommend what has worked for me. I did find a great source of information on what is deer resistant, so maybe that will help with your research.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Rutgers University, Landscape Plants Rated By Deer Resistance

    This post was edited by prairiemoon2 on Wed, Sep 11, 13 at 5:22

  • bill_ri_z6b
    9 years ago

    Just a thought for those of you in zone 6 or better, when planting a mixed shaded border that includes broadleaf evergreens such a rhododendron and holly, don't overlook Aucubas and Camellias! They can add a nice touch.

    {{gwi:5901}}

  • diggingthedirt
    9 years ago

    I love aucuba, but it doesn't seem to get more than 6 feet tall. Fine for facing down a hedge, but I'm constantly whispering to mine to get taller. Do you grow the variegated one? I tried that - it's lovely, but it didn't survive here; possibly less hardy than the plain, or more likely I didn't give it enough water (under a big maple, almost everything needs extra water for at least a few years).

    I also like cephalotaxus, which looks like a yew on steroids - the leaves are much larger, but it has that deep shade of green. Not as hardy, and not as fast growing as taxus, but a slightly more interesting foliage texture.

  • bill_ri_z6b
    9 years ago

    DTD,
    My Aucuba is a speckled one, which I believe is "Gold Dust", although there seems to be a lot of differences between images I've seen of individual plants. Maybe there are many that were grown from seed, but I'm not sure. But you're right about it not growing so tall, however some gardeners here have stated that they mix broadleaf evergreens with other, taller plants, both evergreen and deciduous. My largest camellia is about six feet high, and I have seen those much larger over time. The added bonus of gorgeous flowers in early spring is a nice benefit too.

    {{gwi:5901}}

  • diggingthedirt
    9 years ago

    I'm trying camellias again, or at least one of them. I'd really love to have a collection - my sister does well with them on Long Island. By the way, she has groundwater very near the soil surface, and mine usually fail because of lack of water, I think. ,You must treat yours better than I do, Bill.

    Aucuba also has the nice trait of rooting easily from cuttings - I might try the specked one again, and start some extras for insurance. They sure do light up a dark corner.

  • prairiemoon2 z6b MA
    9 years ago

    The Camillia I bought last fall is still hanging in there, but hasn't done well for me so far. I covered it over with a milk crate and leaves last winter, worried that it wouldn't tolerate the cold it's first season, after I planted it in the fall and not the spring. I don't think it appreciated having that milk crate of leaves sitting on it all winter, because it dropped all it's buds before they opened, then lost leaves over the summer. But it has been in the ground for a year and it still has some healthy leaves and I think I see a couple of flower buds starting to develop. This year, it's on it's own over the winter.

    I am still interested enough in growing them, to give it a different location if it is still struggling next spring. And I may order a different variety of Camillia and plant it in another location and try it again. I hope it makes it through the winter and starts putting on some growth next year.

    I think the biggest challenge in my garden is dryness and not the winter cold.

  • bill_ri_z6b
    9 years ago

    DTD, I don't give them any really special treatment. I have what I'd call 'average' soil here, not too sandy but not clay. Is your soil there sandy? If it is, they may need a little water in summer, but if rhododendron does well for you then the camellias should too.
    Ann, what variety of camellia did you plant last fall? Some are hardier than others for our climate zone.

    {{gwi:5901}}

  • prairiemoon2 z6b MA
    9 years ago

    Now that you ask Bill, I just went back and looked at the catalog on Camellia Forest. I bought 'April Blush' which is hardy to z6b. I don't know why I did that! I remember having the intention of buying a zone 6a and there seemed to be plenty to choose from. Oh well, maybe that has something to do with it. Well, I will definitely have to try another one or two then! But this time I am going to buy in the spring and plant then to give them a good head start. :-)

  • bill_ri_z6b
    9 years ago

    Ann, "April Blush" is my largest camellia. I planted it about13-14 years ago and it's about 6 feet tall now. I have another one that was in a pot for several years and it's in the ground for the past 6 years. The other two spring blooming ones are "April Dawn", but I think one was mislabeled. One has white flowers with pink stripes, and the other is solid deep pink (almost red). I also have a fall blooming one called "Snow Flurry" which is also about 14 years old. That one tends to spread rather than grow tall, and has medium sized double white flowers. It's covered with buds right now, probably over 300 and it will bloom next month into December if the weather stays moderate. It's the hardiest of all of mine and never has any problems with cold weather.

    {{gwi:5901}}

  • prairiemoon2 z6b MA
    9 years ago

    Well, it could be 'April Blush' might survive the next winter, I do have my eye on that Snow Flurry too and I like the deep pink color of 'April Dawn' for spring. Thanks, Bill!

  • bill_ri_z6b
    9 years ago

    My pleasure, Ann. But I have looked again at the Camforest online listings, and from what I see there, the red one that I have is "April Kiss", while "April Dawn" is the white with pink candy stripe. Both are growing well and produced several blooms this year (their 4th in the ground).

    I think I had mentioned before that they were both labeled as "April Dawn", but once they bloomed I had my doubts. Camforest mentions that "April Dawn" will sometimes sport on a branch and produce half pink/half white blooms, but I haven't seen that yet. And on the one that I believe is "April Kiss", all blooms (so far) have been that solid red.

    April Kiss
    {{gwi:517129}}

    April Dawn
    {{gwi:517131}}

    {{gwi:5901}}

  • prairiemoon2 z6b MA
    9 years ago

    'April Kiss', that was the one I was considering when I was looking on the website, but in the Fall last year, I think they were out of the size I wanted. LOVE that color, so pretty! And 'April Dawn' is pretty too. The flowers are so waxy looking and thick. Thanks for the photos! Now if I can just find the perfect spot for them by next spring!