Raising height of privacy fence with plants?

berryfoot(8b)February 22, 2014

Our backyard sits at the bottom of a hill and is bordered by a wood privacy fence. The fence is 6 feet tall on the sides and 7 feet tall at the back. We have lived here for five years, and I have grown tired of having to look at houses when I'm out back and in our kitchen. I feel like I'm surrounded by boxes! I did plant several trees along the fence, but they are small and not tall or full enough to screen out much of the houses yet. To add to this, only two of the several houses we can see (for blocks away) have planted trees in their yards. It makes for a very barren look. I'm wondering if there is anything not tacky looking I could make to sit against the fence that would add a few feet of green (at the very least) to the top of the fence. I have thought of vines, but my husband doesn't want to grow vines on the fence. Also, they probably wouldn't grow very much this season.

I'm looking for "instant" screening, which I realize is probably close to impossible. I still thought I'd see if anyone has any ideas, as I'm not that creative! The house next door that does have shrubs and trees in their yard makes that area of my fence look so nice. I feel that even a little bit of foliage on the other sides could spruce up the look of our backyard.

I'd like to add that I'm not planting anything in the middle of the yard yet because my son needs an open area to practice throwing and catching for baseball. Our yard is long and narrow (100 ft x 50 ft) Thanks!

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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Italian Cypress and other varieties of cypress grow fast and tall. Not sure about your zone, though.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 6:24PM
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A picture and specific requirements on how much space you are willing to sacrifice would help pinpoint a solution. Also, how much sun the area gets. Without knowing this, the best tree for the job is Thuja 'Green Giant'. They grow very fast (up to 3ft) a year in full sun, and can be sheered to great a great screen. I would say you need about 6 or 7 ft of space to grow these as a proper hedge. If you don't want to sacrifice that much space, I would consider Thuja occidentalis 'Degroot's Spire'. For these 3 ft of space would be ok, but they don't grow nearly as fast.

If you have Lowe's in your area, you can get 6ft green giants for about $50, but read the label closely and make sure they are green giant, not emerald green.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 9:03PM
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need to post a pic of the overall back yard.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 11:15PM
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Thank you for the replies and suggestions. Here is a view of the back yard. Those two large trees are ash (I think arizona) that were planted by previous owner. There is also a bradford pear by the playscape and a crepe myrtle to the left of that. I have also planted a small live oak in between the bradford pear and the myrtle, and on the right side there is a small cedar elm near the garden beds and a small red oak in the bottom right corner of the yard. The areas that I'd really like to fill in are the right side and the back side. The left side is fine since those neighbors have planted several trees. I can barely see their house.

I was hoping that someone had an idea for something temporary to be built along the fence, like a planter of some sort, to use until the trees fill in. I've seen those planters that sit on deck railings, but I don't know if the neighbors would approve, and I think it might look junky.

Oh, I'd prefer to not come out more than five feet from the fence at this time. If something eventually spreads larger several years down the road, that's fine because my kids will be older. But I'd like to leave lots of room in the middle for them to run around and play catch right now. My main thing right now is wanting some privacy from the big houses behind me, and a prettier view along the fence line.

This post was edited by berryfoot on Sun, Feb 23, 14 at 13:25

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 1:17PM
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Clumping bamboo are to me beautiful.
Check out the bamboo forum. I have Alphonse Karr which has a beautiful ornament yellow and green striped culm, after two years the clump is about 10 feet tall.

Do not use running bamboo and leave space for the clump to expand.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 1:26PM
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Looking at only your house and from the sky, is not really helpful in grasping what you're looking at and complaining about. We nee to see THAT, in order to help you with it.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 2:49PM
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duplicate post deleted

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Sun, Feb 23, 14 at 16:33

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 4:32PM
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Lucille, I will look into the clumping bamboo and see how much water it needs. Sounds like it grows really fast. Here in the Austin area we are trying to plant trees and shrubs that don't need tons of water.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 4:42PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

If you want "instant", you need to extend the height of the fence you have . Some people do that with inexpensive lattice from a big box store. You have to check to see what fence height is legal in your area to avoid problems with your local municipality. A trellis with a vine growing on it is going to be pretty quick, but your husband doesn't want that. That

Perhaps you want privacy for certain parts of the yard, like windows or a patio? Trellis or latticework structures placed in strategic locations can be "instant".

Bamboo does want lots and lots of water to grow fast, and the plants themselves are not cheap unless you make a friend that wants to give some away.

Fast growing trees are rarely the best choice; they can be aggressive and end up causing more problems than they solve, so be careful what you plant. Being patient can get you better results in the long run.

This is a landscape designer's blog in Austin, TX, (not mine) look at it and you might get ideas for what to do appropriate to your locality.

Here is a link that might be useful: digging garden blog Austin TX

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 4:55PM
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Well I want instant screening in the form of plants, not wood or lattice! Haha! But as I said, I'm sure it's impossible unless you do something tacky like hang pots on the fence. So it sounds like bamboo would probably not be a good choice after all. Darn. The only thing I thought of that might work is free standing trellises next to the fence. Not sure if any vines would grow fast enough to cover it this season. We had trumpet vine and passion flower in our old house, but I think the trumpet took a while to get going, and the passion often got eaten by caterpillars.

A realtor told us that vines on the fence are bad for the wood. Don't know if that's true??? But if we had a free standing trellis then at least the vines wouldn't be on a fence that we share with neighbors (who may not like the vines).

I will check out that Link. Thank you!!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 6:30PM
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Here are some more photos of the areas that bother me. I don't see how to upload more than one at a time so I will do the others in another post.

*those shrubs are red tips that I planted a couple years ago that I will need to remove.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 8:01PM
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Another view

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 8:02PM
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And the final view that bothers me. When I am in the kitchen or on the patio I see even more of these homes. I hope this helps to get an idea. Again, the shrubs are red tips that I planted after someone recommended them. I found out later that they are prone to disease, so I'm going to remove them (many of them are already looking sickly).

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 8:04PM
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A hedge, more or less, is a wall. One thing I think always looks odd is a solid privacy fence (a wall) with a hedge (another wall, but green) in front of it. I think it's better to extend the height of the fence without blocking the fence entirely. One way to do that is to place large tree forms (of the height you wish to grow) in front of the fence. They can be placed as singles on periodic spacing ... or as groups, depending on what you are trying to achieve. They can be spaced so as to connect completely at the canopy area, or be spaced out so as to allow gaps, again, depending on what you are trying to achieve. Crape myrtles are one plant that can be used in this way, but there are innumerable others, depending on what you are trying to achieve. See sketch. (Oddly, this sketch I did awhile back was for someone else in Austin.)

To question whether vines can achieve the height you want in a single season indicates that you have no experience with annual vines. Morning glories can grow 25' ht. in a single season if you do the things (common garden practices) that make them happy. Perennial vines are usually slower to get going, but they are there continuously. The easiest vine trellis is made by erecting two poles a few few apart. Install a large hook at the top of each one and span a chain between the poles (hung on the hooks.) Tie twine to the chain at intervals and connect it to the ground (tie to bamboo barbecue skewers from the grocery store.) Annual vines will quickly run up the twine and coagulate around the upper portions. (It can form a solid screen if you drop enough twines.) As annual vines go, there is nothing faster than gourd. Once it begins to climb it will reach the top in a week and begin sprawling all over the place in a couple more. (With kids around it can be a treat to watch the gourds form. Especially, try maranka -- the caveman club gourd -- for something they will really enjoy.) But leaves begin dying off from the bottom up after not too long, so it would best be followed with another annual vine ... like morning glories (Heavenly Blue cannot be beat) or Moonflower vine, if scent and evening flowering appeals. (IMO, moonflower makes the better screen.)

I don't think it would be practical to trellis in your whole back yard. You might use the tree form shrubs for most of it, and use a trellis where you need the quickest screen.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 8:43PM
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Also, I found this sketch illustrating two different ways of trellising posts, with chain or wire. It's showing the utility of it. If I wanted something nice looking, I'd use posts with finials of some sort.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 8:49PM
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Yardvaark, thank you so much for your help. I really like that trellis idea. It's so simple, yet I never thought of it and have never noticed it in any landscaping. It sounds like it could be pretty cheap depending on the materials used. I'm anxious to try it in a couple of areas.

As for the vines, I actually do have a little experience with some annual vines such as Morning Glory and Cardinal, but I don't think I ever grew them up past 6 feet. I never noticed how long they actually got. I remember they'd start looking ratty around July/August. I'm wondering if the TX heat is too much for them. Do you know of any other annual vines that are more heat tolerant? I have never tried gourd, but it sounds very interesting.

I agree about the hedge wall look - I don't much care for it either.

Do you think that a mulched circular area around the trellis posts would look good? Should I maybe put a perennial vine on one side of the post and an annual on the other?

Anyway, I truly am very excited about this idea. As for shrubs/small trees, crape myrtles do seem like a good choice. Maybe even some mountain laurel? But I think the mountain laurel might be slower growing. However, I might be more patient if the trellis idea works. Thanks again for all of your suggestions!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 9:17AM
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I have grown morning glories in Weslaco, Tx (near McAllen.) They were on an extensive trellis and fence system that averaged 10' ht. They were thick and full and went all the way into late summer/fall. I suggest that why they might not have performed well for you before has to do with soil (use plenty organic matter) and water (don't let get too dry between waterings.)

The trellis hanging on hooks I have never seen either (other that what I have produced.) Go figure ... it is the easiest, can be the cheapest or as elaborate as one wishes to make.

I would begin with annuals for quick cover. But decide on a good perennial and just add it in. It will gradually take over and as it does, you can quit planting annuals and start treating them as weeds that need to be gotten rid of.

When you asked about "mulched circular area around posts" ... I'm thinking that you will plant a line of something climbing on strings and mulch the whole line. You wouldn't want to be mowing grass under the trellis.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 10:15AM
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Surely if you grew the morning glories near McAllen I should be able to keep them thriving here. Thanks again - I am looking forward to this project.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 2:14PM
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