privacy tree hunt

I am, as you may remember, on a quest to find some trees/shrubs/etc. that we can plant at the back of the yard to block out the ugly view of the apartments behind us. I’ve been doing some research to see what options might work for us.

The qualities the plants need to have include:

  • grow to around 12′ tall
  • be ready to grow into a lush wall of green (losing the shape of individual plants)
  • be fast growing so I can buy small (and relatively cheap)
  • not be super bushy (I don’t want it to take up a lot of horizontal real estate)
  • not require regular trimming/shaping
  • not have surface roots or roots that will cause problems for the fence or yard
  • not drastically alter the pH of the soil in the area (I know that pine needles do this, not sure what else does)

Ideally it will also:

  • be friendly/attractive to wildlife
  • be native to this region
  • have winter interest/still be able to hide the apartments in winter

So far I’ve come up with a few options, though I’m sure there are many out there. If you can think of something that I haven’t listed here, please let me know! And now for some evidence of my ridiculous photo-editing skills.

Juniperus chinensis ‘Torulosa’ AKA Hollywood twisted juniper
back yard with Juniperus chinensis 'Torulosa'
Pros: weird looking, about the right height, evergreen
Cons: weird looking, possibly too full, not very showy

Hibiscus syriacus AKA Rose of Sharon
backyard with Rose of Sharon
Pros: pretty in summer, flowers will attract birds and butterflies
Cons: reportedly looks like crap in autumn and winter

Juniperus chinensis ‘Hetzii Columnaris’ AKA Green Column Juniper
backyard with Juniperus chinensis 'Hetzii Columnaris'
Pros: all-year coverage
Cons: doesn’t really cover up the apartments at the top, not very flashy

Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald Green’ AKA Arborvitae
backyard with Thuja occidentalis 'Emerald Green'
Pros: all-coverage, the intarwebs claims it’ll form a wall o’ green if you let it
Cons: not very flashy, not sure if that wall o’ green thing is true or not

Buxus sempervirens ‘Graham Blandy’ AKA Boxwood
backyard with Buxus sempervirens 'Graham Blandy'
Pros: seems to be less bushy than most of the other options
Cons: not flashy

So far from these, I think the Boxwood is my favorite. This selection is just based on some Googling, though, so again, if you’re in the know, please share your suggestions!


15 thoughts on “privacy tree hunt

  1. I vote NOT arbor vitae. My choices would be the Hollywood twisted juniper, I think with the cool twisty branches you aren’t going to miss flowers or whatever. Or the boxwood, which I think has a much better chance of needing less pruning to keep it where you want it (out of the veggies).

  2. Are you open to doing a mixed hedgerow? That way if one dies it won’t look so weird when you have to replace it (and it will look a lot more interesting). And I agree with Susan about the arborvitae. Have you checked out Landscaping for Privacy by Marty Wingate? You probably already reviewed it, actually.

    You could do one boxwood, one twisted juniper, one Arbutus . . .

    • I definitely AM open to that, Heather! It’s a great idea. What about Arbor Vitae do you dislike?

      I did check out that book – we have it at the ‘brary but I somehow neglected to review it – and I found a bunch more possiblities!

  3. I like the look of the boxwood, although I also think Heather’s idea of a mixed hedgerow would look really cool.

    When I was young, my mom planted a thick, thorny hedge between our house and the next door neighbors’ house. It looked great, provided protection for the birds, and kept obnoxious children out. I may end up doing the same thing, since the neighbor kids don’t seem to know where their backyard ends and mine begins.

    • I agree, Nanette – I’m thinking mixed hedgerow is the way to go.

      I love that your mom did that! I planted a short hedge between us and the evil neighbors (though they don’t live there anymore since they got foreclosed on) and it has thorns, though they’re not huge. It’s a dwarf barberry, which is super pretty since the woody part is almost always reddish.

  4. Obviously the evergreens will provide you year round coverage. Though when we lived in the sub we had a tall fence that blocked the neighbors and it was lined with forsythia, rose of sharon and another flowering bush (??) which all bloomed at different times. Wasn’t much to look at in the winter but was really pretty during the summer and when in bloom.

    I like the idea of a mix too!

  5. I love your mad photo editing skillz! The only thing I would caution you about is that the trees/shrubs you edited in are fully grown, so it would actually take a while before it looked like that (unless you’ve secretly become a millionaire and are going to plant full grown ones:) ). Arborvitae is not my favorite (our neighbor says she is going to plant it between our yards πŸ™ ), but I hear it is fast growing. My friend put in a row to create a wall between the street and her backyard and it is successfully a wall of green (pretty quickly.) Presently between most of our neighbor’s yard and ours we have a long row of forsythia. I think it makes a beautiful border, though it is not very tall so probably wouldn’t successfully hide your apts. Have you considered fruit trees? Peach or plum? They can get pretty bushy/tall and are lovely and good for birds/wildlife. One final pie in the sky thought (Pie in the sky because I want it for me!) when I was growing up we had a row of hydrangea trees (tall-not the shrubs, actual trees). They wouldn’t block the first few feet of your fence, but the glorious fully mature tops make a spectacular wall of green foliage, then white/green flowers, which gradually turn pale pink, then deepest pink and into brown, before the are branchy for the winter.

    • Thanks, Sarah! πŸ˜€ I admit that I had fun cutting and pasting. And YES, that is a great point – whatever happens, I’m not going to shell out for fully grown plants. I just can’t justify the expense. It seems that everyone dislikes Arborvitae – what’s your peeve with it?

      OOH! Fruit trees would be awesome!! I would LOVE to have fresh fruit growing, even if critters ended up eating most of it. Hydrangea trees sound beautiful, too! I’m off to go look up what fruit trees are hardy in our area and see some pics of Hydrangeas. πŸ™‚

  6. […] s1.parentNode.insertBefore(s, s1); })(); TweetSo, based on your awesome recommendations, readers, I have more options for the back fence/apartment-hiding project. I got some ideas from […]

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  8. Just wondering if you have a deer problem in your area. Usually they don’t feast on arborvitae ’emerald green’, but have been known to. They usually like all arbs, except for that one and Spring Grove. I just put in a screen of 10-12′ hetzi juniper. I was able to get them at a very reasonable price and am very happy with them. I love Buxus ‘Graham Blandy’, but you will never see them at a mature size enough to screen the apartment. The largest I have ever been able to get them is 6′ or so (in the trade) – installed they cost anywhere from 400-500 each at that size. They are extremely slow growing – 1″ – 2″ a year. Don’t think they will ever work for you. Have you thought about an Allegheny Viburnum. Semi evergreen – old leaves stay on, although not the best looking, through the winter then new leaves push out in April. Very rugged, flowering in spring – not fragrant, but a true workhorse. Might get a big too tall for your likes though. Mixed border is a great idea. You could use the junipers or arbs in the back – I like the hydrangea idea (limelight is glorious) or you could also use winterberries – Ilex verticillata – beautiful bright red berries through the winter, white flowers in spring. One male to approx. 5 females. The birds love the berries in late winter. They persist through most of the winter, until Feb. or so, until their berries soften enough for the birds to eat. They look great in front of an evergreen backdrop.

    • Hi Pam!
      We generally don’t have deer problems in our area. Our back yard is completely fenced in (6′ high) so they’d have a trick getting in, and directly behind us is an apartment complex where there’s enough traffic that I don’t think deer would be comfortable.

      Thanks for the tips on the various plants! I’m happy to learn about things like the ‘Graham Blandy’ not growing high enough for my needs, so I can avoid making costly mistakes!

      I’ll look into the Allegheny Viburnum and winterberries for sure. Thank you!

  9. Emerald green arborvitae are slow growing. Try a Pyramidalis arb. My Rose of Sharon schrubs are not fast either. They can look a little scruffy and will need pruning and shaping work over the years. If you have good sun, try Juniper — maybe a blue variety like Sky Rocket Juniper. I agree to mix and match. Make that area more than a wall of green and add variety. Leave a garden area in front of the arbs or junipers and plant annuals like beautiful tall cleome and short marigolds. Remember that arbs need water — lots of it before going into winter. Otherwise, they winter sun will scorch them. I covered mine the first 2 years in burlap for winter. Water water water. Junipers need water while getting established too (a year or so), but are less water dependent than arbs.

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