Variegated Dogwoods vs. Arborvitaes?

newhomeowner2011aMay 8, 2012

If this was your view of your neighbors' yard, would you replace these variegated dogwoods with arborvitae trees or would you leave these? Ideally would also like to put tree in back right corner - white star magnolia or crab apple perhaps?

Bothers me but not my husband to see their house and them in the summer on their deck (they aren't creepy or anything but they do spend a lot of time out there so they can always see what we are doing in our backyard...) I have young kids and they have older kids (if that makes any difference) :-)

House is north facing.

What would you do to fill that space if you owned our house?

Note: fence is to be replaced but we have already been told it cannot be any higher...

(view from top of stairs leading to backyard - you can see their deck in this pic)

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Plant a redbud could work.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 6:53PM
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Ok, 4 ft. (here relying on the commentary about Emerald Green in the Add Some Pizzazz thread.) But I will admit to utter ignorance concerning the growth characteristics of dogwoods.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 11:02AM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

If it were my house I would transplant the var. dogwoods to another location and plant an evergreen hedge with an established mature height of 10 to 14 feet. There are a variety of semi-dwarf arborvitaes such as Arborvitae Occidentalis 'Deep Green' that won't overtake your yard with height and width.

If you were to transplant one or two of the var. dogwoods in front of the new dark green arb hedge you will create a nicely contrasting foliage scene that you can build upon.

Using all three of the dogwoods might be a bit too much in your space, but 2 or 1 would look lovely in just the right spot juxtaposed against the arbs.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 12:02PM
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Having just bought a red twig dogwood yesterday (I was looking for a Stellata Magnolia) - I'm anticipating it will expand in all directions except maybe upward. Like the variegated, doubtful it would never reach enough height to block a view - the tag says 6-8 feet. I know that is only a predictive model. If you're in the Cities your growing season is a bit longer than ours; sometimes it makes a difference, sometimes not.

I've got some Techny arborvitaes and they seem to have a smaller footprint than some, and mine are at 30 years or so. They've reached my second floor windows without gobbling up ground space.

Have you run this by the helpful people on the trees or conifer forums?

The only problem I see is a tree would have to come out in the yard further so as not to spread over into the neighbor's space, and many of the conifer choices would require a deeper planting space than currently exists.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 12:08PM
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What's the plant that everyone wants? The one that grows the fastest but doesn't get too big! What do people like being told? What they want to hear. It's a common practice in the nursery industry to claim that plants will grow to only half the size of their real potential. If a tag says 8' ht., figure that 12' or 16' is more realistic. It's just the way it is and one must be aware of it when selecting plants.

Another thing to be aware of is comparing apples and oranges. Plants grow best after their root system is established. A new plant with an underdeveloped root system might sit round for a year--sometimes even two--before they achieve their regular growth pattern. Here, you have to ask yourself if you'll be better off trying to "push" (by fertilizing, trimming and watering well) plants with an already developed root system into their fastest growth... or change them out for a faster growing plant that doesn't have a fully developed root system. Like a doctor trying to predict the outcome of surgery, obviously no one can give you a definitive answer. The dogwoods you already have in place, with a little effort stand an excellent chance of screening double the height of your fence without coming back to bite you later. Their spacing is already good for this purpose. The foliage would be a nice bright spot in yard. And the red twigs (if you adopt the proper--and very easy--pruning practice) would provide outstanding winter interest.

It's pretty much standard policy that fences at the back yard are limited to 6' ht. It's also pretty standard that this measurement is exclusive of ornamentation. It's not very difficult to provide some type of ornamentation that is attractive to one type of vine or another. As the fence is surrounded by Boston ivy, you could consider creating a way to take advantage of it if you don't solve your screening problem completely (or quickly enough) with other screening methods.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 9:39PM
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Brad Edwards

Don't go with the magnolia, it won't give you the coverage you need in all liklihood, its not an evergreen variety and really open.

The redbud has pretty large leaves, but drops in winter. I agree a privacy evergreen hedge would be the way to go, maybe a redbud or dogwood in front of that would look nice, the problem with the privacy hedge is the lenght of time it would take to grow.

I am not a fan of legustrums but they would be a good canidate for something that grows fast and if you train them into trees they would look nice.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 1:49PM
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The places I've lived where it gets cold...Illinois, Virginia... even Georgia, it seems that the need for back yard privacy directly correlates to seasonal warmth. No one spends time outdoors on the deck or patio in the winter so there's little need for privacy. Additionally, it's amazing how dense some deciduous plants can become ... especially if annually pollarded. Check out some of the Google images of red twig dogwood branches in the winter. With this plant, pollarding seems to be the default. That process makes very dense twig masses. (Don't be mislead by no one having a clue that they can be pollarded in tree form as well as shrub form.)

While I'm not suggesting a single trunk or willows, I found this example of a pair that are useful in demonstrating the ability of colored twigs to look great and screen a view. The 2nd picture is a display of red and yellow twig dogwoods in the shrub form (with some odd lighting.)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 12:08AM
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And how about a comparative analysis of the time that will be required to maintain the proposed options in the desired configurations? Doesn't help that the person who will be expected to do the trimming doesn't see the point of it all. Arborvitae would also have the advantage of screening that fence from view.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 7:03AM
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Whitecap, that a person "doesn't see the point" is exactly what the forum is here to accommodate. As the discussion progresses, where confusion surfaces, clarification is offered. At least, that's what I'm trying to offer.

The concept of pollarding--with a couple of notable exceptions--seems virtually unknown in American horticulture. While many novices stumble when it comes to learning the "decision-making" process of conventional pruning, the beauty of pollarding for twig growth is that once one learns the "where" and "when" of it, the process of doing the actual cutting takes little time and requires virtually no thought. Even a cave man can do it! Also, it's FUN!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 11:10AM
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Not to be tiresome about it, but I was referring to Homeowner's husband.

Pollarding crape myrtles is SOP down here. Real pain in the neck, because it requires a trip to the brush disposal site.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 3:11PM
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Did not get the DH ref. at all. Sorry, I'm not "hip". What is SOP? Is it same as PITA? Most cities have some sort of brush pickup plan. Yards always produce wastes of some kind.

OP, don't forget to fertilize those dogs and give them some regular extra water... otherwise, you'll be wondering why they aren't doing much. If you follow through on the course you're presently on, it would be nice to see a "follow-up" photo of the actual outcome at the end of summer.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 8:05PM
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DH=Dear Husband. (Or D*mned Husband, depending on mood.)

SOP=Standard Operating Practice. DO NOT DO THIS TO CRAPE MYRTLES. EVER. They look like crap and become weak limbed. There's a reason it's called crape murder. Pollarding--or topping--mature trees is also common in some areas, and it's downright STUPID. Pollarding is rarely done here the way it is in Europe. There are a few trees that really give an excellent effect if you pollard them when they are small. But you don't pollard a 45' tree to make it a 30' tree.

Dogwoods are awesome. Leave them! THey will be downright breathtaking when that ivy fills in. Under plant with contrasting emerald green and silver foliage for a stunning effect.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 11:54PM
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Have cut more of the dogwoods's base so they are more of a V-shape - will continue to fertilize and water as the summer progresses with hopes that they will continue to grow vertically!

Also, I will update with a pic at end of summer - btw, how would you keep track of this posting thread to know if I did this? (curious as I've posted a few times on other threads and never got feedback - is there a way to save these so I can keep track of ones I either post questions on or comment on?)

reyesuela - any suggestions for emerald green and silver foliage under the dogwoods?

I have some solid green hostas (too many in front yard!) that I could transplant here as well.

Suggestions on how to lay them out under the dogwoods?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 12:11AM
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The posting thread will always remain in the Landscape Design forum. If you add a picture months later, it will pop the thread back to the top of the list where anyone perusing the forum will see it. Depending on what you add, people may or may not comment further.

You could access the thread yourself by finding it through a search. Or you could "save a clipping" from the thread. Look at the right of each post and see the link, "clip this post." Saving it will put it in YOUR clippings, which you could access by clicking on your name in any of your posts and going to "my clippings". From there you could click through to the thread.

Plant beds below dogwoods solid with a plant like Hosta... not rings, lines or edges... just solid. 18" center-to-center spacing would work.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 12:48AM
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I have a similar issue with my home -- the neighbors have a second-story balcony that overlooks my yard, and which they use to store their bags of garbage and stand and smoke on.

I went out and bought several privet bushes at 8 feet each, and they were only about $25 per bush (I went to a nursery specializing in hedges). They have grown about two or three feet in the last two years, and they are really starting to fill out. The negative, of course, is that the privets lose most of their leaves in the winter. However, they get taller, faster, than arborvitae. They're also light and airy at the base, so I can garden underneath them (I've filled that bed with hosta, heuchera, and ferns)

I expect the bushes to get to around 15 feet, and adequately cover my neighbors view of my yard at least during the spring, summer, and fall.

PS - Your variegated dogwoods are gorgeous. Do try to move them, or give them away, and don't toss them into the compost.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 12:54PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Or you can bookmark the thread on your computer.

Karin L

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 1:09PM
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>reyesuela - any suggestions for emerald green and silver foliage under the dogwoods?

If you are keeping the bed that width, I'd just do solid green.

Because the dogwoods and ivy are deciduous, I'd go for an evergreen groundcover. So I'd put the hostas elsewhere.

For an evergreen groundcover, I'd use vinca minor, a hardy liriope (I THINK there are some that will do in your zone), microbiota...and I'm kind of out of suggestions for zone 4. You can check at your local nursery.

Since you are in zone 4 and winter is so long, I'll amend my suggestions for the corner of the yard. I'd go with an evergreen there.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 11:29AM
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Actually, the microbiota might be kinda awesome there because in the winter, you'd have the red twigs above and the bronze foliage below....

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 11:31AM
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