Help! No Privacy in Yard. City can't zone against nature!!

cattasticAugust 3, 2012


We live on a irregular corner lot -- no backyard, only 2 front (or corner side yards). We had one small area for privacy (deck with a fence), until the city made us take our fence down to a very low level (image).

I want to plant something that will give us some privacy, that will stay private through winter (we live in Minnesota).

There are some great 6 ft tall Arborvitae shrubs shrubs on sale at Home Depot (I want to run out the door and buy right now), but my fear is, in 10,15,20 years, the root system will mess up the retaining wall.

I know many recommend to get a vine and grow up a trelace, but I would really prefer the Arborvitae as it will stay bushy all winter. Would it be horribly stupid to plant Arborvitae shrubs? As you can see from the photo, it is a very, very narrow space in between a retaining wall and ridiculously short fence.

Appreciate your input! Thanks!

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marcindy(z5b, Indianapolis, IN)

It's funny, just yesterday I walked past a house that had a similar situation. I am not sure your city will allow this, but these folks build a pergola over their seating area and added "curtains" tied back to the four posts, it kept it open enough to see in and out but allowed for temporary privacy if desired. It had this tent-like feeling, very breezy and cool looking for summer.

In addition they had a small strip for plants and used shrubby mounds between taller but thinner shrubs. And they added a few hanging baskets. to the street side of the pergola. The whole arrangement provided a pretty good amount of shielding from views of passersby. Maybe something similar could work for you?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 12:43PM
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Thank you Marcindy, I love that idea. I've run that by the City too and it is a no go:( I would love one of those on our next property though, they look so beautiful.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 1:00PM
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I don't think you have space for arborvitae. They get pretty bushy and wide, even small ones can be pretty round and wide. If you put some in the space where the hostas are, they would overtake the sidewalk in a couple of years, if not sooner.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 5:59PM
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Might you have room for some tall grasses where the hosta are? We had some type of feather reed grass when we lived in MN that kept its stalks all winter long. I had to cut it down in the spring, but it grew back fairly quickly.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 7:28PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you need to give us a cultivar name for an opinion of which arb ... but most of mine are going on 4 to 6 feet wide if not more ... inside 8 to 10 years

the ONLY one that is theoretically feasible.. is thuja occ. de groots spire ...

and i dont understand if they made you take down a taller fence.. why a taller tree is ok ..

is that your entire yard???


Here is a link that might be useful: pic at first link

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 7:33PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

There is an exceedingly narrow cultivar of Juniperus virginiana called "Taylor'. The only nursery I know of that sells it is Sooner Plant Farm in Oklahoma. Gets some 10 feet tall plus and stays 2-3 feet wide.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 6:13AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I can't see how you can grow anything in that space on the outside of the fence. It looks like it is only about a foot wide. And if the town won't allow a taller fence, I can't see how they would allow a taller trellis. Even tall perennials and grasses would need more room than that.

About the only thing I can see that might help, is to move the table and chairs away from that sidewalk side, and add some pots on your patio with tall plants. I grew Arborvitaes in pots and they have taken on quite a bit of height in only a 20 inch pot and I leave them out all winter. Ilex 'Sky Pencil' is another narrow evergreen. A standard Hydrangea could work too, not sure about leaving it out all winter.

Or you could move your fence back a foot and a half and have room to plant Ilex 'Sky Pencil' or an Arborvitae that would need to be pruned after it reached a certain size. Have no idea about whether the root mass would disturb the retaining wall.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 7:14AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Actually, I was just outside and the Arborvitae I have in pots is only about 6ft tall. I am sure it will grow taller with a good fertilization schedule, but at least it would be as tall as the old fence.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 9:05AM
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How much sun do you get there? In the summer, is there at least 6-8 hours of full sun?
If there is, I would take out the hostas and cement that in, creating a wider space for your arborvitaes.
If you don't want to cement it, put something down, even those cement patio blocks from Home Depot, and buy the 6 ft. arborvitaes and put them in nice size pots on top of the now filled in area.
That would jsut give them enough room to grow nice.
I am with you, I would buy the arborvitaes, the beautiful green color would look nice year round.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 1:42PM
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bboy(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The bed isn't big enough for arborvitaes.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 3:36PM
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