Interesting privacy shrubs for zone 6

CountryPlantingJuly 26, 2014

I just moved into a house in the country. There is nothing around except for another house on a lot right next to ours. Love our neighbor, but we'd like to put up shrubs that would block his house from our view. Preferably at least six feet high. As of right now, you can see into the windows from his yard.

I'd prefer something fast growing, but I also would like a shrub that is a bit more interesting than the norm. I like the shape of forsythia, but I'd prefer something evergreen. I've considered smoke bush, but it has the same problem. Do you have any suggestions? I'd love something that did not require a ton of pruning.

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

country implies acreage .... so i dont understand the 6 foot limitation ...

perhaps you could give us to idea of the spaces ...


    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 8:31AM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

"Preferably at least six feet high..."

Evergreen viburnums - you can't go wrong.

**Viburnum x pragense

**Viburnum x burkwoodii and clones

Viburnum x rhytidophylloides and clones

These are all going to surpass the six foot size, but you will be rewarded immensely with many seasons of interest while still screening out the neighbor.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 11:58PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

These are really evergreen in colder zones? I thought they were deciduous north of zone 7.

The continuing search for hardy broadleaf evergreens that don't require acidic soil...

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 4:09PM
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As alluded to by mad above, broadleaved evergreen shrubs suitable for zone 6 are limited at best. And even those that are hardy to that zone can be pretty much defoliated (if not killed back to roots) by a winter like the one just passed. Maybe "semi-evergreen" is the best that can be hoped for :-))

I've linked to a listing of evergreen shrubs for that hardiness zone. But I'd consider some dwarf conifers (needled evergreens) as well. These typically will have a much greater cold tolerance and come in a wide assortment of shapes and needle colors, all the way from gold/yellow to blue to even purple in cold weather. And variegtated forms as well. Most grow slowly enough that they will never exceed the height you prefer.

Here is a link that might be useful: broadleaf evergreen shrubs for zone 6

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 4:32PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)


I know gardengal48 and mad_gallica have been on this forum for a long time, and have been around the block a time or dozen. I never would've thought either of you were unaware of the proclivities of the viburnums I listed above.

I don't think I've ever led anyone astray here with plant recommendations, though I may come off a bit ascerbic at times...

Yes yes yes - all those viburnums I listed I have grown here at the Valley for twenty years or more. I planted them for others before that, and there are many examples of these species all around central KY, the Ohio River valley region, and ranging up into Ohio - at least. Absolutely no question zone 6, and I'd wager that there are more than a few good looking plants hanging out and showing off in zone 5b.

I can relate plenty of evidence about the winter hardiness of the species listed. I can post pictures of many ways that these species exist in landscapes around here. The January 1994 cold snap to -28F did not delete, deter, or deflate these species, though V. x pragense lost some leaves. I have never seen any of these die back to the ground.

The veterinary hospital where my wife works has about a thousand feet of barrier hedging of V. x burkwoodii. One of the horse farms I drive past daily on my way to and from work has over 2 MILES of V. x rhytidophylloides 'Alleghany' as a border planting along the perimeter country road. Another horse farm on the other end of town has about a mile of V. x pragense as its border planting.

All of those examples are in Fayette County, Kentucky - and we are pretty solid zone 6, except when it drops to the -20s.

Here's the beginning of the 'Alleghany' allée...

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 11:01PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

Should have said that image of 'Alleghany' above is from January 19, 2014 - this winter's insults being shrugged off.

Oh, forgot to mention for mad's benefit: central KY Bluegrass growing conditions do not contain acid soils. Absolutely limestone-based calcareous clay loams - the Valley is circumneutral. My viburnums would have it no other way...

Here is the long happy healthy evergreen stretch of V. x pragense at Taylor Made Farm along Tates Creek Road in Fayette County on June 28, 2014. These - like the 'Alleghany' miles - get regular whackings to keep them at this relatively modest height.

'Alleghany' would want to be 20' x 20' if allowed to. V. x pragense would be 15' x 15', albeit much more slowly and densely.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 11:12PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

Notice that these are not protected molly-coddled "oh my tootsies are freezing, give me a blanket" viburnums. These are stout and stalwart, thrown to the elements to sink or swim species - and showing their mettle.

Here are the last of the three tough guys I originally listed - V. x burkwoodii. These were planted years ago at the equine hospital, and they have been plugging right along despite growing up under mature pre-existing Prunus serotina. These are planted with a western exposure along this fenceline. Their partners occupy the only worse location: along the driveway with northern exposure on the property line. This picture is from April 19, 2014.

Note the crispy completely dead Magnolia grandiflora at stage right...wuss.

This post was edited by viburnumvalley on Wed, Jul 30, 14 at 23:31

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 11:29PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

The Last Word...

If you still don't believe that there are a fine group of broadleaf evergreen viburnums that can tough it out with the best a zone 6 winter can throw at them - and shine on come spring with exceptional flowering and fruiting to follow - then you are simply cursed with...

Viburnum ÃÂburkwoodii Tunnel Visionâ¢

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 11:37PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Last winter, the coldest here in 30 years--at least minus 6 degrees--my small V. pragense and V. 'Cree', both in the most exposed part of the yard, never lost a single leaf. And these plants were only going through their third winter here. They are tough!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 6:55AM
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Viburnums are exceedingly lucky to have you as their advocate, VV :)
Thank you for the photos of our lovely state!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 7:00AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

My concern isn't winter dieback. It is winter brown-out. A lot of plants will look like the first picture in January. What I'm looking for is something that looks like the second picture in January. I've had some sort of V. rhytidophylloides for years, and it always loses its leaves for winter. Even during the mild winters it does that.

BTW, the horse people say our soils are very similar to the area around Lexington.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 9:03AM
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CountryPlanting, see my thread on Prague Viburnum which is just what the doctor ordered.

Here is a link that might be useful: Prague Viburnum Thread

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 9:43AM
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Since I do not garden in your zone, VV, I will defer to your much greater experience :-)) Most of the resources indicate the shrubs will only be evergreen in milder climates.......but then most shrubs don't read books!! I am impressed that even with 2013's "winter from hell" for most of the US the viburnums you show photo'd did so well. I always knew these were a tough bunch of shrubs........apparently much tougher than I realized.

But then in my pretty winter-balmy location, concerns about broadleaved evergreens and foliage retention (or even desiccation/hardiness) are not very pressing :-))

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 1:28PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

All right, mad - it's time to have it out.

I'm going to be a doubting Thomas, and ask that you show some images of that n'er-do-well viburnum you have.

"Maybe that word does not mean what you think it means..."

Thank you all for the kind comments - but it's the viburnums doing the work. I just like hanging out with them.


You have the fortune to garden where a whole lot more evergreen species - including many viburnums I can only lust after - grow with abandon. They would be quite frail in the Ohio River valley - species like Viburnum davidii, V. cinnamomifolium, V. utile, V. japonicum etc. The ones mentioned above rise above, though, and perform well under most conditions thrown at them here.

And in case you thought these just were pretty leafy faces...

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 11:24PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

This has little to do with my viburnums, and much to do with yours.

If you really want to call this an evergreen plant, fine. However, it isn't what I'm looking for to replace the deer destroyed yews. It is too, well, brown.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 10:56AM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

C'mon, mad - really?

First, I don't understand why you haven't shown your plant(s) that you are unhappy with - which you might very well not have the correct identity for.

Second, I can't believe that you will base your entire opinion of a species on one image posted here - which simply illustrated an extreme condition tolerated by this species.

Since I don't have the benefit of quizzing you in person, I'll will state lots of refutations to your objections to the value of this species as a perfectly good plant for zone 6 limestone soil conditions - here or in upstate NY.

The viburnums in the pic above were sheared repeatedly during the growing season, since the horse farm wanted to contain them within the fenceline and/or some obscene orthogonal obsession. This meant that the plants continually were pushing new growth quite late in the season - which is what you see, and of course it is brown in January since that foliage had no opportunity to harden off.

I'm certain that wherever you happen to garden in eastern NY that there are plenty of Viburnum ÃÂrhytidophylloides selections scratching out an existence through thick and thin of upstate winters. 'Alleghany' is the industry standard, but 'Willowwood' is a fine choice as well - and the one I'd prefer to grow. Take a gander at collections at Ithaca (Cornell Plantations) or Rochester (Durand-Eastman Park), or maybe any other nifty sites you might be able to suggest.

I'll take your skepticism, and pitch it off into the bushes...

Here is a link that might be useful: Cornell's viburnum collection

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 11:43PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

For the OP, for whats its worth Viburnum x pragense was probably my favorite Viburnum that had green leaves throughout the past 4 winters with the exception of this past winter where it actually had severe dieback down to the crown so I removed it for a hardier selection. Its branching pattern and extreme contrast between the top and bottom of the leaf is the true draw. So for habit, texture and growing season color I give this one a 9 out of 10.

I'm gardening in one of the most bitter winter climates in the US. We had 40+ days of negative temps this past winter so I'm not surprised that this particular plant perished.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 8:13AM
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