Help resolve our newlywed disagreement! (inside the fence?)

rob_2610November 22, 2010

So we bought a house earlier this year and it came complete with an awesome pool, but no privacy out back. We are looking to add some privacy, but do not want to make an obvious screen and block out the world (leylands). I was able to get a deal on two big Babylonica Weeping willows (her favorite tree), a couple dynamite crepe myrtles and a few red tip photinias. I also plan to divide some of the overgrown grasses along the house to fill in a few of the gaps. The real dilemma began AFTER I began digging the holes just outside of our split rail fence (there's 17 ft between the fence and the road). My wife thinks its ridiculous to plant outside of our backyard, I think that it will crowd the backyard if we plant inside the fence. I grew up on a farm, so I don't know what's the norm here. (Maybe I'm thinking outside because the cows would eat the trees if we planted them inside the fence? haha). Any help is appreciated! Best, Rob

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These are a my Buffalo friend 's greenhouse evergreen rock,tree,shrub pics.maybe you select some:

    Bookmark   November 23, 2010 at 1:56AM
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Congratulations to newlyweds -
- I vote for inside, 'cause then you'll have a better view of the willows. But check their mature size and see they don't get above the pool.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2010 at 5:51AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Presumably the area outside the fence is still your property and local codes don't prohibit trees that close to the street. Also presumably you're leaving good open sightlines at the corner with the intersecting streets.

The photos don't show the entire yard, so I can only guess how much room there is. I know willows can get huge. Will all these additions end up giving the same effect as a Leyland hedge (by the way, I live next door to one)?

I'm going to vote for some inside the fence, some outside. Also a judicious use of clumps every so often rather than straight-line plantings (for example, three photinias in a triangle, or two photinias and a smaller shrub making a triangle). That can look less obviously like a privacy hedge and a bit closer to nature.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2010 at 9:38AM
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A willow is not an appropriate street tree - inside.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2010 at 7:19AM
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Laag's got it right but I'm going to expand on his remarks: Salix babylonica is not an appropriate tree for most averaged sized residential properties. It gets quite large (50' x 50'), has an extensive and aggressive root system and can pose serious problems if planted nearby to any water sources - irrigation systems, inground pipes and plumbing, septic systems and pools or other water features. It is also a very messy tree, dropping catkins, leaves and small branches. Willows also have brittle wood prone to breakage and tend to be plagued by a wide variety of disease and insect problems. A large rural lot is more suitable, where the tree can be sited well away from any structures or intended water sources. They look ideal next to a pond or natural retention pool, but NOT anywhere near a swimming pool.

I would also rethink the advisability of redtip photinia. In much of the country, this shrub is seriously affected by a fungal blight that defoliates and weakens the plant, leaving it unsightly and often, short-lived.

Personally, I'd consider conifers - they don't have to be Leylands - for screening or privacy issues, especially anywhere near a pool. They provide year round screening and tend to be low maintenance and low in litter. Other appropriate broadleaf evergreens - perhaps cherry laurel or wax myrtles - would work equally as well.

Don't create more problems for yourself. Look for well-behaved, low maintenance plants of a proper scale and that offer disease resistance.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2010 at 9:23AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Garden Gal and Laag are right, but...If it's her favourite tree, the willows are likely going in, and I don't see a problem growing them for a few years; until they get too big - and I should know - I've lived under willows for 16 years, just chopped the second one down last month Yaaayyyyy!!!!! Yes to messy and and invasive roots - we had an annual sewer-routing spousal togetherness weekend for years. But the first few years... why not? Just don't let them get too big. In other words, don't feel bad about cutting them down when it's time. You can get new ones. So, yeah, outside the fence. Waaay outside.

Interesting that you have photinia problems down whre you are, Garden Gal (nice to see you back, by the way!). Up here they have been looking blisteringly healthy in recent years particularly. I used to scorn them for their commonness back when I was a gardening snob, but have had to admit that they do look spectacular at some times of year. We have some big ones that I drive by regularly.

Either way, the coolest thing about plant selection is that it isn't forever. If stuff either dies or doesn't perform as you expected, you take it out, you plant something new. True, your privacy may suffer if you change in this case, but there are ways to deal with that.

You don't say where outside the fence you were digging. If you were hugging the fence, yeah, that will look funny. Right out on the strip, through, about half-way to the road? No problem.

Speaking of looking silly, Ideasshare has done it again and now seems to be flogging someone's products too! Someone could report that.... And has made your fence disappear altogether. Sheesh.

And... what ARE those strange rectangular things in your yard? Love your imaginary cows :-)


    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 2:47AM
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Karin, the Entomosporium leaf blight is very prevalent in the south and along much of the east coast but it occurs regularly here in the NW as well. In fact, when wearing my consulting horticulturist hat, I encounter this problem in local gardens frequently. Just recently completed a design for clients who needed to screen their neighbor's failing and almost leafless photinia hedge (but refused to remove). Few local nurseries in my area even sell these plants anymore as they are so disease-prone.

Rectangular looking things appear to be horseshoe pits......?

And I've been around -- just not very vocal and much more lurkerish, as there are so few posts that seem to stimulate my response :-) Not much in the actual way of design considerations, if you know what I mean.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 11:41AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I'd agree with the others that you may regret the size of the Weeping Willows and the root/debris issues around a swimming pool over time, but I don't see a design issue about leaping the fence with shrub plantings. It appears that your backyard fence backs up to another street behind you, while the rest of the street has adjoining neighbors with front yards? Closing this off with shrubs and trees would completely change the open character of the neighborhood streetscape, but I guess that isn't an issue for you as you prefer more privacy at your backyard.

If you know you don't have any water lines or sewer lines close to where you intend to plant the willows, and also have a pool cover for the pool, then maybe planting 2 willows isn't such a big deal. They are beautiful trees, but will easily get 40 feet across, and quickly.

I'd suggest planting evergreen shrubs of some sort that are hardy to your zone and don't get much more than 6 to 8 feet tall by across on both sides of the fence, yet far enough back from the road that they don't get road salt damage in winter nor damaged by plowed snow if that is an issue in your neighborhood. You could face these shrubs at both sides with the grasses to transition in height.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 10:35PM
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Thank you all for the advice! And sorry for the late response! After I got the trees in the ground, I shelved outside projects till the spring!

Karin was right, the willows did go in, and the trees went INSIDE the fence. No pipe issues, actually have standing water issues, which I think the willows will mitigate. I agree that we will be able to appreciate them more on the inside. I think that we have enough space that they should not interfere with the pool too much! In the (4+ yr old) pic below, you can see I have 17 ft from fence to the road, so I'm about 30+ feet from the pool. And the trees are to the east of the pool (winds are usually coming from the west).

Missingtheobvious, thanks for the idea of inside and out, while everthing did go inside, I'll be adding some more (possibly photinias or something similar to the outside this spring).

The boxes are horseshoe pits, odd construction by the previous owner, but we have enjoyed them!

We are not looking for a 100% screen, something to block the majority of the view to close the space in some.

Everything is beginning to show green growth! I was worried about the photinias as they dropped about 50% of their leaves after I applied Wilt Stop in the fall.

Thanks again everyone! Best, Rob

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 2:42PM
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