need help with shrub border

massagerocksAugust 16, 2012

I'm looking for some help in planning a shrub border for privacy. I'd like to use a mix of shrubs and hoping I can layer some heights, but not sure I have enough room. Most of the shrubs that are tall enough seem to grow too wide. I live in zone 5. The area faces East/West and is approx. 27 feet. I have a couple pics. I plan on moving the Rose of Sharon's to other locations, as I'm not fond of them other than when they're in bloom. Some shrubs I'm considering for the background are Weigela, Viburnum (summer snowflake or judd??), abelia, summerwine ninebark, fineline buckthorn. Are these good choices? Are they too large? How many to plant? Do I need an evergreen shrub-suggestions? Any advice is most appreciated, thank you!

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karinl(BC Z8)

I was not a fan of rose of sharons either until I pruned mine into a tree, and in that form it quite charms me - its trunk is an attractive smooth grey in winter, it leafs out late in spring letting lots of sun at the understory plants, and even not in bloom the tree is an attractive shape - I even enjoy the foliage when the whole thing is not an in-my-face green blob.

I don't find the shrubs you're considering to be compelling at all, to be honest. Primarily, this is because their shape and their foliage is undistinguished and possibly indistinguishable. I would tend to add in shrubs with good foliage (and have no idea if these work in your zone) such as leatherleaf viburnum, Hydrangea aspera, big-leaved rhododendrons with fuzzy texture, and so on. Maybe something really fine-leaved to contrast.

Point being that flowers are not the point of a shrub border - you are looking for form, texture, foliage. Flowers are incidental. And yes, I would include evergreens, but skip the garden variety arbs - go with specialty conifers that might cost a bit more but will be fun to look at almost every day in addition to being the backbone of your border.

As for ultimate width, keep in mind that all landscape installations have a lifespan. You can keep shrubs to a size by pruning for many years, including cutting them back to ground in many cases. But if they get way too big, just take them out (well OK, that can be a big job) and replace them with something new.

Karin L

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 1:25AM
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yardvaark

is it along the red line that you are wanting screening?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 1:54AM
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massagerocks

Karin~ thank you for your suggestions. They do sell tree form ROS here, but mine are bushes. I'll look at the branching, I hadnt condisdered your idea. I visited 3 nurseries here and searched online to come up with the shrub list. I'm trying for a seasonal balance and these were highly rated and seemed to fit my criteria.
Yardvaark~ yes along the red line, except the line would go behind where the ROS are now, assuming I remove them. One of them might have to stay (farthest to the rear of lot line) since its pretty huge. We removed the grass from that dirt section this summer. We can extend the width eventually as I add more depth. I'm struggling with the backbone.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 7:35AM
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massagerocks

i forgot to mention, we dont want to use arborvitae. One evergreen shrub I liked was a dwarf hinoki. A bit similar to arborvitae, but its shape was much prettier. The shrubs were so small and the tag said they were very slow growing so we discounted them?. We enjoy 4 seasons here and many birds and such here (SE MI), so thought it'd be nice to have bushes with yr round interest. Neighbors have red-twig dogwoods that although pretty in winter, look wild and weedy rest of the time. We dont need the privacy in the winter, but looking to enjoy a pretty view. Definitely need a privacy screen for the rest of the year though...

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 8:15AM
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yardvaark

I like the bloom and foliage of Judd Viburnum, but it doesn't seem tall enough for being in the background. (The scent alone makes it worth a position somewhat forward.) Some of the other plants you mention seem fine. I think the buckthorn 'Fineline' would serve you well. Another thing I'd consider in the mix is Winterberry Holly. Some of the cultivars can be spectacular shows in winter, but might need supplemental water if the soil is dry.

One thing I think you will need to factor in is shade produced by the nearby tree. If it produces too much shade on the hedge, you can expect thin, lanky foliage... which will not produce a good screen. You may need to limb the tree up some to get enough sun below its canopy. Also, select varieties that can tolerate less than full sun.

Take a look at the Univ. of Ill. shrub selector link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Shrub selector by zone

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 9:17AM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

Some big shrub roses might be a nice addition. Rosa glauca is a terrific 3 season plant, even though it only blooms briefly, the foliage color harmonizes well with others, and firey red hips persist all winter. It gets about 5-6 feet tall and maybe 4-5 feet wide.

Some of the ninebarks also have cool foliage. I like Summerwine as you have suggested. That said, it is easy to overdo it with burgundy-foliage plants, so perhaps just use one of them, but use it repeatedly here and there down the length of the border.

White Flower Farm used to sell a shrub border named tapestry somethingorother. Not that you have to use the same plants they do, but the photo shows an effective grouping and repeating of similar plants along the border. In general that catalog and website is a great source for inspiration.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 9:37AM
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massagerocks

I really like the fine texture and narrow growth of the Fineline buckthorn, but should I be concerned about the invasiveness issue? Horticulturists seem to disagree with the sellers..

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 1:32PM
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yardvaark

I don't live where it will grow, but the preponderance of claims are that it is not invasive at all. (I haven't found anything to the contrary.) It's easily believable, though not absolutely iron clad. That's one thing about horticulture... sometimes you pay your money and take your chances. You might see if you can find any growing locally and talk to someone who knows. Explore starting with the county agent.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 11:52AM
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massagerocks

I've finally decided on, and purchased some shrubs. My new shrubs are 2 Emerald Green arborvite, 3 holly bushes (2 castle spire, 1 castle wall), 2 juddi viburnum, and one summerwine ninebark. We are going to try and remove all of those Rose of Sharon's, but the last one at the back will mostly likely need to stay due to its size. Behind the ROS are 2 holly bushes about 3 feet tall, which I'm hoping will be more visible and do better once we remove the ROS which hide and shadow them. I'm looking for suggestions as to what order to plant my new shrubs front to back. I planned on the 2 arborvite at the top b/cus we already a couple arborvitae there and they will block the neighbors garage view year round. I hope I've made good choices, I've been pondering what to do here for months....

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 9:03AM
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yardvaark

Research the height and spread of each plant. (Rely on averaging several sources of information instead of accepting just one or two, and keep in mind that height may ultimately exceed what all sources state.) Arrange plants with the tallest at back and shortest at front. Group like plants together; do mix them in an alternating manner.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 9:27AM
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massagerocks

Yard, would you explain what you mean with regard to the shrubs I bought? I'm not getting it, "group them together, but alternate them" I have 2 judd viburnum, 3 hollies and 1 ninebark, they get similar heights... do I plant one holly, then one vib, etc.. or plant the 3 hollies together, and then then ninebark, and then the viburnums together, or something else? I can probably fit several more of something. thanks.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 9:15AM
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yardvaark

I'm glad you asked. Sometimes words I think do not make it to the paper and the error is not caught in proofreading. "NOT" is missing and my comment should read: do NOT mix them--the shrubs--in an alternating manner. I'm saying exactly DON'T plant a holly then a viburnum then a holly, etc. That would look bad. My preference is to keep it as simple and "clean" looking as possible. I wouldn't add more species either. If you need more plants to make it work, use the species you've already selected and add more of their kind to their respective groups. (I can't believe someone didn't jump on me about my mistake!)

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 11:30AM
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massagerocks

Yard~ thank you for clarifying. that makes much more sense to me. i really appreciate your advice. I understand completely about leaving words out of emails. I'm "talking" so fast in my head, its amazing what gets typed out sometimes when I re-read them. I'm sure I dont always catch everything either. I'm anxious to get them planted, and will send pics when finished. Thanks again to you and others who responded.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 6:14PM
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