Design ideas for a semi privacy hedge (pics)

miclino(5)November 27, 2010

After three years, we are finally getting around to planning the backyard landscaping. Planniing now for landscaping next spring. We're on a small lot in typical suburbia with beautiful bay windows that look out directly into our neighbours backdoor and we'd rather look at something else. Our neigbours are very nice so we don't want to setup a solid wall of green but rather something to block key viewpoints and provide something nice to look at as well. My wife is very private person and doesn't like opening any of the shades until we get some privacy. I love to open all the shades so this is a problem......I have drawn up a plan but want some help.

Here is a view of the house from the back. Note that the house is elevated (daylight windows in basement) so any hedge will have to have some height to it. Tree is columnar sargent cherry.

However the beautiful bay windows offer this view:

And this view from same window. Our property ends about a foot from the edge of the neighbours raised bed and a foot or two to the left of its other edge. Also note storm sewer drain in neighbouring property.

These are views of the property from either end. The burning bush base lies just within our property. It stays as per agreement with our neighbour who used to maintain it before builder came along and continues to do so. Note also, land slopes slightly away from house.

Here is the view from the patio door which opens to our kitchen and breakfast area. Note the trees recently planted by neighbour which I feel are unfortunately close to the property line but appear somewhat columnar. Remember property line is a foot from edge of the raised bed. It is not the low point between the two lawns.

Some additional views from upstairs to give perspective

Property line on this side is demarcated clearly by brown grass on neighbours side........

Okay so here is what I want to do, want to add some privacy without completely blocking out neighbours. Want to use evergreens primarily so that the effect is year round and want to do this by sacrificing as little lawn as possible. This is very important to us. I want to save as much as possible on our little lot for the kids to play on.

The back of the lot is 71 ft long. The shortest distance between patio and back property line is only about 15-17 feet or so. I want to create a raised bed extending along the entire back of the property anchored on each end by blue spruces (Not towering 50 foot behemoths but smaller versions like "bakeri"? In between, I want to use of groupings of arborvitae in threes to block line of sight from the bay window and the patio door. In between would be smaller shrubs. See plan below (not to scale). The green spots mark smaller shrubs.

We definitely want to use blue spruces. Need recommendations on which one to use.

Also which arborvitae to use? Should I use smaller arborvitae in groups of three or one of the larger arborvitae like "green giant"?

I want to buy largish plants so the privacy effect is almost immediate. I don't want to wait five years for the effect, I also don't want plants that will eventually overwhelm the yard.

Would drainage be affected by putting a raised bed as in the plan? What about the storm drain on neighbours plot? What are other thoughts on the plan, am I insane or does this make sense? I may cross post in conifer forum as well. Those guys have been helpful in the past.

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I like nature,avoid any formal planting.add some art rock,conifer,juniper,maple.maybe you select some

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 5:50AM
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ummm sure. lets go with that instead.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 2:27PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Where you want a little privacy after seeing the height width of these columnar trees, you can place them where needed to block those areas that you wish to block.

Liquidambar styraciflua Slender Silhouette
Acer rubrum Red Rocket
Carpinus betulus Fastigiata
Ginkgo biloba Princeton Sentry

Deciduous conifers:
Larix kaempferi Paper Lanterns
Larix decidua Blue Rabbit (extremely-fast)
Metasequoia glyptostroboides Sheridan Spire
Taxodium distichum Shawnee Brave aka Mickelson.

Picea engelmannii Bush's Lace
Picea omorika Gotelli Weeping
Picea glauca Pendula
Cupressus nootkatensis/Chamaecyparis nootkatensis Jubilee
Pinus strobus Stowe Pillar
Juniperus chinensis Blue Arrow
Juniperus virginiana Taylor
Thuja occidentalis Degroot's Spire
Thuja occidentalis Wintergreen aka Hetz Wintergreen (very fast!) and only 8' wide when 40 feet tall; foliage is attractive also for an arborvitae.
Thuja occidentalis Malonyana
Thuja occidentalis Malonyana Aurea
Picea abies Cupressina

Smaller shrubs for spots called Green Spots on your plan:

In front of the Blue spruce (you'll be adding, correct?) : Deutzia gracilis Nikko... for a blue-spruce you'll need a narrow-form such as: Picea pungens 'Iseli Fastigiate' or you will likely find at garden centers, 'Blue Totem'. Either way, you're going to have the same, effect.

To the right of the blue spruce: (orange fall color) Viburnum dentatum 'Blue Muffin'

To the left of the burning bush (bright red with dark purple leaves for fall color, plus spring-bloom) PJM Elite Rhododendron (handles full-sun).

The green dot above the bold-text Arborvitae:
A shrub that turns bright red during fall. I might suggest:
Hydrangea quercifolia

Just a note: since your yard has little true planting room, there's going to come a day when either you, or your neighbor will most-likely need to remove trees. Until that day and with a ton of luck, enjoy what you plant, while you can... I just cannot see how your plan will ever fit many trees. The trees I'm suggestion are the best and some of the narrowest, I can think of.

That drain, I wouldn't plant a (columnar) Blue spruce unless it was a minimum of eight feet away. There will come a time that a columnar Blue spruce would be 16' wide (30-40 years) and then needles will drop right in it, and that's the problem there. Of course, with a drain also... you do not wish to plant close to it, to begin with. Eight feet is probably a good estimate. I think 7 feet away could also work.

Best of luck,


    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 10:18AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


i swear .. to quote yogi ... this is deja vu all over again ...

refresh my memory.. where in MI are you??? i grew up in livonia.. now in the tecumseh area [with an adrian mailing address, hence the name]

can you visit hidden lakes gardens???? .... see link .... and view the conifer collection ... and if you can, you could visit here since in am about 12 minutes from there ....

or can you get about 12 miles north of jackson and visit the 10 acre arb at gee tree farm???

IMHO .. with all due respect.. it just isnt all about hunting on the computer and making lists.. and hoping to find stuff at the local supplier.. if you want something truly spectacular ... you need to go see them.. feel them.. smell them ....

BTW.. i wish i had you gorgeous castle on my 5 acres.. wowzer ...

the beauty of conifers.. is that there is no reason you cant tour either of the above in winter.. since there they sit.. year around ...

BTW.. your deciduous trees are in the perfect spots ... to hide the neighbors.. one of the reasons you are inclined to do this now.. is that the view did not bother you.. when those trees had leaves .... ergo ipso presto ... the choicest spots for blocking are already taken ... start by deciding if you can/should move those or if they can be sacrificed .. to replace with conifers ...

let me know where you are


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 11:52AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

In place of Deutzia gracils Nikko - Deutzia gracilis 'Chardonnay Pearls' would be quite nice. It may also be a bright-beacon that attracts too much attention for some gardeners/home owners. My initial thought for a shrub there was one with yellow fall-color-only, and, a strong bloomer.

Deutzia gracilis 'Chardonnay Pearls' does not have any "significant" fall color according to one website. I haven't yet found what color the insignificant color, is... however, a dull yellow fall-color would still better-suit the fall color, portion of the plan, best. Either selection, can still bring charging fall-color to your landscape.

Have fun, and think ahead how many years you think they will survive where you plant them... this is the key for selecting appropriate plants, more-importantly the trees which are often known as "The Backbone" to all landscapes. Most specifications are for the 10-year growth-rate & actual size at that time. So, do your best to "think ahead" when deciding long-term for all the plants you select and realize that you can prune deciduous with a pair of clippers or a hedge-trimmer to easily-maintain any size and shape. And, be sure you read up on the correct time to prune all your shrubs as to not sacrifice blooms, which usually is the main concern because people accidentally or unknowingly remove next-years flower-buds. Otherwise you will do the majority, or all of your pruning & corrective pruning while the trees/shrubs are dormant, from late fall into late winter.


    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 12:27PM
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Sorry... ken...

if you had read the work up along with... the pictures, you'd have discovered the deciduous trees (except for the columnar Sargent Cherry) were planted by... the neighbor in the neighbor's very own yard although close to the property line. I doubt the neighbor is going to willingly sacrifice them.

I had a feeling when I first looked at this that the backyard neighbor also sat on his deck, looked out his windows and worked out the logical strategic spots for a bit of screening from the OP.

Just as an aside, the meatballed burning bush is of no consequence - but could be lovely if LEFT ALONE.

Be interesting to know what those deciduous trees are - there are a lot of trees that look columnar when young, and before they hit their stride with real growth spurts in all directions. Might be a self solving problem in less than 5 years - at least when in full leaf.

Privacy - a rare commodity in the typical suburban neighborhood. Regardless of plantings, I'd bet on a lot of shade pulling and drape drawing.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 12:39PM
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Thanks for the responses.

Ken. I did post previously about a single dwarf conifer specimen for the front yard. Im in the burbs north of Detroit. And yes, I have no plan to buy anything I don't see with my own eyes. Which is why I initially limited my selections for blue spruces to varieties such as bakeri or fat albert that are available at Bordines or any of the many nurseries in Romeo Plank area especially since I want to start with sizeable specimens.

Dax, thanks for the suggestions. Will look for these in local nurseries. The reason I intially started with arborvitae was the small footprint which would allow planting in groupings of three. Somehow that sounded better than individual plants at intervals but I might be wrong. Do you feel I am being over-ambitious with the number of evergreens?
The current trees belong to the neighbour and unfortunately I don't know what they are. In 5 years perhaps, they may provide the coverage I want now but considering they are without leaves half the year, don't feel thats enough. I work all day in a windowless office, would like to come home (esp in winter) and look at my slice of nature.
The burning bush while on my property is maintained by the neighbour as per prior agreement (he was worried we would chop it down) so I have little control over its shape.
Agree that lack of privacy is the price to pay for living in suburbia. One could argue that I should have thought of this when purchasing the property but other factors came into play, namely proximity to the in-laws for baby sitting support.................

Right now I'm more focussed on picking the evergreens for the spine. Have some ideas for the plantings in between but that will come later. It will give me room to plant shrubs/conifers that I would not have had the space for otherwise, Deutzia, pinus strobus nana, hydrangeas, viburnums etc etc

What I don't want is a solid wall of green which might be somewhat claustrophobic and somewhat dull. I also realize I need to worry about how big these may get 10 years from now which is why I would never plant a colorado blue spruce but rather one of the "dwarf" varieties

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 3:11PM
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You didn't mention which direction is north or south -
Depending on how big your neighbors trees eventually get, that could make a difference. Some arbs need more sun than others.
I would definately ask them what those trees are b4 making any decisions - my uneducated guess is flowering pear - they look late to loose their leaves & they have the shape.
It looks like those trees are Have you determined the height you need the Arbs to reach? Some get taller than others.
Per your plan, it seems you're planting the arbs 3' from the lot line? Green Giant's & Techny get quite wide, maybe 12'.
Are those Emerald Gem Arbs around the patio?
I would check which arbs the local nurseries grow, then research those specific varieties to see if one meets your needs.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 2:08AM
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Sorry missed some details. The patio faces west so the backyard gets some morning shade but mostly full sun for the rest of the day. The right corner gets more shade in late afternoon. It gets very hot on my patio in the afternoons during summer.

I would agree that those trees are most likely flowering pears. We have enough of them around here that I should know......they are I would need the arbs to be atleast 15 feet tall minimum eventually because the patio doors and windows are elevated and also the lawn slopes away from the house.

The arbs around the patio are emerald arborvitae. I like them a lot and they are filling in nicely but don't grow very fast which is fine for their current location.

Green giant is probably not an option due to how big it gets. It will have to be one of the others, or even one of the fastigate spruces suggested by Dax.

Will be spending some time at the nurseries in the spring whcih won't be easy with two little ones 2 and under. Wife already thinks I spend too much time there :)

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 9:33AM
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Some designers have found that combining blue/gray foliage (blue spruce) w/ bright yellowy greens (Emerald Arbs) is uncomfortable to look at - they don't blend well. If you're sitting on your patio you will be viewing your border thru the patio trees. Maybe look at conifers which aren't so blue?
The Hetz Wintergreen arbs might be a good color choice as a background to the Emerald Greens - & have a nice tight shape, as opposed to the looser casual Nigra, etc.
Especially in the spring, check how wet the ground is back there (I'm sure the sewer drain is there for a reason...) Most arbs can tolerate wet, but if you make a raised bed you may block water flow & create a pond on the right side of the yard. Does it slope from right to left?
Your plan seems alittle symetrical, but your patio design isn't. Maybe do a wider taller choice in the left corner (to balance the heavy globe burning bush.
Over the winter, re-draw your plan to scale & draw-in the 10 yr + sizes of the trees, including your neighbors existing trees. It really helps w/ decisions.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2010 at 3:28PM
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Thought that myself too based on previous posts in forum but I haven't seen Wintergreen Arborvitae around here and from what I've read, its not commonly available. Will look for it next spring though.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 9:51AM
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I have Brabant, Nigra & Green Giants along my lot line.
(I have moist part-shade under Walnut trees so my choices are limited.)
When I was buying them I never saw any Hetz Wintergreen at any of our local nurseries.
But just this past summer I saw some at 2 places & I did like them alot.
They looked neater & more formal than what I have, but not as formal as the Emerald Gems.
But the tops are narrow & pointy, so they won't block as much of the view higher off the ground as something more oval.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 12:24AM
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Taking into consideration ten year size, how much distance is it appropriate to leave between planting site and property border? I certain don't want to leave any grass to mow between the tree and neighbour property.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 4:25PM
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Well here is the landscapers plan. I think he is overly ambitous placing large hollies in a narrow bed.


I didn;t want a solid wall of green immediately so I am going to suggest groupings three arborvitae with ilex castle wall planted in between. Thoughts? I also want a columnar blue spruce or baby blue spruce in one of the corners. I have read that wichita blue junipers are disease prone but more than one nursery around here has said that is not the case.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 10:53PM
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By miclino at 2011-04-12

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 11:03PM
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