evergreen screen needed for tight, sunny spot adjacent to wall

farmgirlinky(z6 CT)June 4, 2011

Ideally we would plant three to five fastigiate, evergreen, bird-friendly and fast-growing plants in a sunny tight spot between out side kitchen door and the neighbor's drive. Here are some of the ideas we've had:

ilex crenata "sky pencil"

non-invasive evergreen bamboo (is there any such thing for zone 6?)

a fastigiate beech or other deciduous, narrow cultivar that holds on to its leaves through the winter?

What thoughts come to mind? Your comments very much appreciated.


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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

How tight is the tight spot?

What sort of height did you have in mind? Are you trying to make a privacy screen?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 5:13PM
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farmgirlinky(z6 CT)

Yes, missing, we are hoping for a privacy screen, and the spot is about 3 feet (of planting bed depth) by seven feet of planting bed length, against a 4.5 foot brick wall, with southeastern exposure -- sorry I didn't see your kind response before....

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 9:35PM
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How high do you need to screen?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 8:45PM
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farmgirlinky(z6 CT)

Laag, the taller the screen the better, really -- this is between two old, three-story houses, the walls of which are about 25--30 feet apart. On the other side, where there is less constrained space, I have a cluster of weeping Alaskan cedar that are working out very well as a screen between my windows and those of my neighbor.

The current problem that I'm trying to solve is made tight by a 5.5 foot brick wall and a concrete walk. One possibility, an alternative to a fastigiate evergreen, would be a sort of vase-shaped evergreen (if I could think of one like that) with upright limbs starting about five feet up so that the brick wall isn't a problem. I could underplant that with something else to fill in under the tree along the wall.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 9:09PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Any tree you can buy, you can limb up so its branches start where you like - as it grows, of course.

I'm not clear on how much space you have up in the air. Would a normal deciduous tree fit - I don't get why, with 25 feet, it has to be fastigiate. Also, is the wall yours or your neighbour's? Is the property line right up the middle of those 25 feet? A photo of the area or better description of the parameters might help.

All you're getting is questions, but we're not really obtuse - just need to get the picture :-)


    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 10:46PM
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farmgirlinky(z6 CT)

Hi, KarinL, if I can post a decent picture of the crime scene I will -- fastigiate because any tree planted up against the wall (my neighbor's wall) will overhang her driveway and she may be tempted to "side" it if branches are in her way -- she's no landscape artist, and I would hate to see a tree or shrub deformed. I think it should be evergreen because I'll need a screen for this site year-round. For now I can't think of a medium-sized columnar evergreen that looks good limbed up. We think Ilex crenata Sky Pencil won't like being up against the brick wall.


For now we have propped up the original screen that was blown down this hard winter -- it's a variegated euonymous, now held up with a wire trellis bolted onto the wall with rebar, etc, and so we have time to deliberate. But it sort of looks not so great.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 9:59PM
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farmgirlinky(z6 CT)

Here's the picture of this sad spot, with battered euonymus now wired to rebar (should last and the euonymus might recover), but what would you do with this spot 1) with euonymus, or 2) without euonymous? Ignore enormous weeds.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 7:10PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Ok, so first, I wouldn't worry about her pruning anything that overhangs her side. That is her right, and your plant can still do its job if it is pruned. In fact, if I were you I'd keep it pruned so that you control its pruning, not her, and since it would be your plant. You can prune the branches short to encourage bushiness rather than cutting them at the trunk.

Second, one reason I was interested in a photo was that I couldn't picture this wall, whether it went up or down or retained something or what. This still hasn't quite told me what I would like to know, namely whether trees planted could damage the wall. Is it her driveway on the other side, and if so, is it at the same level as your ground? I'm wondering whether tree roots could blow out the wall on her side. You said it was her wall, and that could be your liability.

I would get rid of the euonymous, and the ivy, which will kill any tree you try to plant there.

The wall is attractive, so there is no worry about limbing things up, but you don't actually need to limb up all around a plant; just the branches that grow out to your sidewalk. Think of the plant as growing in a fan shape, two dimensionally. In front of the wall you just take out branches growing forward and backward, but above the wall you can cut short as I described above.

You can use a number of strategies here, remembering that plants are living things that need to transition into and out of the ideal size you need. You can interplant both fast and slow-growing things, taking out the faster growing ones as they outgrow the space and the slower-growing ones get to size. For example there is a wonderful Ilex cultivar called Mariesii that would take time to grow in, but would serve once it gets there for many years. Grow it to size in the company of a fast-growing Physocarpus that you grow in a fan shape. Another strategy is to use maybe two fast-growing shrubs, planting and culling on a staggered schedule so you always have some coverage.

You can also plant a broader canopy tree right where that big weed is (borage?) to use the airspace you have to block the view - you don't have to do it right at the property line.

This is just to say that fastigiate is not your only option. But if you want to go fastigiate, I think I would look into some specimen conifers that are attractive in and of themselves - say a gold and a green or blue variety of weeping norway spruce or something, maybe with the shooting-upright type of junipers, maybe a juniper gold cone - because putting something you like to look at in that spot will enhance your experience of your space. The weeping conifers can even keep their skirts if you just trim them to the walk.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 12:01PM
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farmgirlinky(z6 CT)

KarinL, thank you for your generous thoughts. Where that big weed (?borage) is there might be driveway one day, so I still am thinking that the planting should be against that wall. The ivy belongs to my neighbor and covers her brick porte cochere. On the other side of the wall is her driveway, which is the same grade level as our concrete walk.

I have thought about spiral juniper, and you are right: ilex crenata Mariesii is lovely, given time. Here's a sort of curveball: what would you think of weeping copper beech Purple Fountain? They are tall and fast and narrow and kinetic.

Physocarpus is a plant that I have admired but never knew what it was!

Weeping Norway spruce is a good idea.
Thanks again,

    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 8:57PM
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If it was me I would take everything out and put in a group of very formal, narrow, upright conifers with very little underplanting to add just a speck of color and texture. In other words, very tight, well behaved plants.
I would treat it as a strong focal point but one that doesn't need to be overworked or need too much attention.
Serviceable and reliable.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2011 at 9:12PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I just posted a new thread showing an approach that might work...I meant to post two different photos on it and will rectify that later, but the idea is there.


Here is a link that might be useful: screening thread

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 1:20PM
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farmgirlinky(z6 CT)

What would you think of a screen of three weeping copper beech Purple Fountain? Could it grow together densely enough to create a reasonably effective screen even in winter after the leaves are off? A neighbor has a beautiful old beech hedge, the trees planted a little less than 2 feet apart on center. These beeches do tend to hang on to their leaves through much of the winter, while I don't think copper beeches do,

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 4:28PM
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