Privacy Screen Quandry

peachymomo(Ca 8)June 11, 2010

I have a large backyard that is surrounded by tall evergreen trees and gets a lot of shade, and I want to plant and/or build privacy screens on three sides where neighbors can look directly into my yard. The most problematic area is one where there used to be a line of pine trees but the previous owners chopped most of them down leaving only three, turning them from a very effective privacy screen into a completely ineffective screen that nevertheless casts a lot of shade which prevents the fast growth of anything else >:(

The area is about 50 yards long and so building a tall fence or just putting up some lattice would be expensive. I've been to a local nursery that specializes in trees and shrubs and even they were stumped by the problem of finding something that will grow quickly in full shade. Bamboo is a possibility but I hesitate to put any in because I know how invasive it can be. A properly restrained type of bamboo that would not take over my yard or the neighbors and grow quickly in full shade is the only solution I have been able to think of. There is a specialty bamboo nursery close to me and I think they will have something, but before I go in that direction I want to fish for more ideas. Oh yes, whatever I put in needs to be tall because the neighbors' yard is higher than ours by about 4 feet, so they are able to look down into our property.

I am having a problem with my pc so I cannot currently post pictures, but hopefully it will be fixed soon. If pics would help let me know what you would like to see and I'll do my best to get them.

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Do you have particularly nosy neighbors and/or particularly private backyard practices that necessitate ABSOLUTE privacy? I have to say that from what you describe, it sounds like there's still a good bit of screening between the yards already, even if it's not absolute.

I, personally, don't much care for walls 'o green (or antyhing else for that matter). A nice layered mixed shrub/tree border gives plenty of privacy (and much more visual interest and wildlife activity) without claustrophobia.

Remember too that you can also create screening without planting right along the border -- sight lines are what matter. Find a way to perhaps plant within the yard to create additional privacy in areas where you really need/want it rather than focussing on walling the yard off in its entirety.

Maybe it would be helpful to think less along the lines of hedges and more along the lines of natural peek a boo fan for a smaller area.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 4:27PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I want a complete screen because I simply value privacy, I grew up on a property where I couldn't see any neighbors and I like that. Also my neighbors have a dog that barks incessantly whenever it sees any people or animals, the only place we can enjoy in peace is the front yard where the fence is tall enough for the dog to not be able to see us. Lastly the neighbors themselves have expressed a desire for more privacy, they installed some lattice between their deck and our yard but there is still a lot of open space that we would both like blocked.

I'm not afraid of the space becoming claustrophobic because it is quite large. Most of the area to be screened is more open and gets more sun so it is better suited to a wider variety of plants. Achieving an open look would be difficult because the entire yard is already boxed in by a not-very-attractive fence, it is too short to provide privacy but does a good job of keeping the dogs in (and out.)

Thanks for the advice though, more would be greatly appreciated!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 6:39PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

So the pines are yours? If you want tree cover, your best bet might be to cut the remaining three down as well and start a whole new row there, because as you say, nothing well get established with them there. It's not just the shade but also the root competition. Of course, growing things in takes a while, so you could put up lattice panels or something for vines to climb up while they grow in.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 2:05AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

The pines are on my property but I'm not sure how much more sun would be provided by chopping them down because my neighbors to the south have much taller evergreens that I think cast shade on roughly the same area. Looking from the front of the house I cannot see my pines, but I can clearly see theirs towering over my property. I like trees and the shade they cast keeps the property much cooler in the summer, it just makes it really difficult to find something that will thrive and act as a good privacy screen.

If there is nothing that will grow and bamboo is out of the question my wonderful bf is a skilled carpenter and can build privacy lattice or something. But I think we'd both prefer a 'wall 'o green' because that would kind of make the space seem like a forest clearing instead of a yard surrounded by other houses, and it would be less work for him.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 9:59AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

How about vines? They might be appropriate for some of the areas you want screened.

I was recently searching for something which would grow in near-complete shade. Some of my neighbor-to-the-south's Leyland cypresses died and I heard the sound of chain-saws! (Two more down, only about ninety left to go.) But I suddenly discovered I preferred the privacy they'd provided. I have two mature cherries there, so the area still gets almost no sun, even with the new windows in the Leyland cypress hedge.

Anyway, I did a search for "shade" in the Vines forum and there were many shade-loving vines which would have been perfect for me ... if only I'd been in a warmer zone.

That search returns nearly 200 results. You'll save a lot of time if you limit yourself to the results which indicate the poster is in a zone roughly comparable to yours, or a part of the country with a climate similar to yours. You should also ignore the many threads which got only 1 or 2 responses.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 11:01AM
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If you really want complete privacy, start building your fence now, and probably by the end of this year you will have it done.
There are some shrubs and trees that will grow where you need them, but plant material will take years to be big enough for your satisfaction in providing privacy.
You could by mature specimens, but with the size of the yard you want to screen on 3 sides, you are talking thousands of dollars, so build the fence.
What about a bamboo fence?
I have seen beautiful bamboo fences, they are attractive.
Just a thought.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 12:32AM
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