Privacy Screen - What tree size to buy?

thapranksta(Mid TN 7A)February 12, 2013

I am planning a roughly 100 foot mixed border running along a 6 foot tall wooden fence that will be used for privacy screening as well as to give the backyard some life. I've got a lot of tough choices to make as far as what trees obviously since it's not going to be a traditional hedge (even though that's not completely ruled out).

So I was wondering if someone can help me answer some of my questions. One of the trees I'm interested in is the thuja plicata zebrina. I have the option to get this tree in a small size and save a ton of money or a larger size and spend much more. Is it better ultimately to buy the tree in the larger size to get the privacy screen established in a shorter time or will the smaller trees catch up relatively quickly since they can get adapted to my soil more easily?

Also if I buy the trees in a smaller size, do I need to be concerned with the rabbit population eating my trees? I also have deer nearby but I've never seen any enter my yard to bother my fruit trees and suspect they will continue to munch on the surrounding forest.

Also, some trees I have considered besides the zebrina is the thuja green giants and willow hybrid. I see that Starks has a variety of willow hybrid but I have not seen any real mention of it outside of their website.


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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey prank ...

how big is your yard ...

good luck on those presumptions about vermin ...

all trees have an annual growth rate ... BTW.. there is a conifer forum.. since you mention such ... they are great enablers ...

anyway ... it is thought.. that one to 2 foot stuff.. gets re-established.. and returns to the proper annual growth rate.. much faster than large or very large trees ... so that in say 5 years.. a 2 to 3 footer.. can outgrow a 5 to 6 footer ... all other things done PROPERLY ....

think of it this way.. if a tree .. of which conifers are.. is twice as large underground.. think of what need be cut off to dig up a large one.. and how long it will take.. for it to re-establish the roots.. before it can get its act together and move skyward ...

so there is some benefit to smaller ... but not necessarily tiny ...

i would suggest you stay away from ANYTHING marketed as fast growing.. willow.. poplars.. etc.. fast to grow.. fast to disease.. fast to die ... in tree years of course ....

you dont mention soil type ..

obviously.. if you have fruit.. you should know most of the tree planting stuff ....

TN is one of the largest producers of greenery.. i am surprised you need to search the web .... or mail order.. for the ordinary stuff ....

and explain.. or post a pic.. about why you need privacy.. if the fence is already there. .. are you hiding it.. or whats on the other side ...

my GG are going on 15 feet tall ... and 10 feet wide.. you better have a large yard.. for such .. and many other conifers ...

more info please ...


    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 1:28PM
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thapranksta(Mid TN 7A)

My total yard is about 1/3 acre. My front yard is kind of squeezed in with neighbors so the backyard dominates much more of the space.

Behind our home is a yard on a hill that looks directly down into our backyard. Our property line is adjacent to each other and covers about 100 feet. On the other side of me, I have two other neighbors. One of them has a home that sits on a hill and the other home has a deck that looks directly over our fence. In other words, the fence deters people from entering our yard but it does not block the view from our neighbors property.

Any trees I choose would need to grow at least 18-20 feet tall at the minimum.

I have only a year under my belt as far as tree planting and such. Still definitely a lot to learn but I understand the basic stuff. My soil is loam although I have encountered some clay areas.

I didn't necessarily say I would mail order it but I've had good experiences in the past to get quality fruit tree specimen at a great price (bare root of course). It's also easier to order online generally when you don't have the time to visit a nursery.

By smaller I mean, 18''-30''. I'm not sure if that is considered tiny.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 2:12PM
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Your total yard is 1/3'rd acre, so the backyard is smaller than that, and you want a roughly 100 foot row/border of evergreen trees that are at a minimum 18 feet tall.

Wow. First off, unless your idea of a backyard is a little square surrounded by foliage, back away from the 30+ foot trees! Trees vary in height vs. base width, but my subjective impression is that base is often about 1/2 height (can be more).

I can appreciate a taste for seclusion; I'm not wild about being able to see the neighbors myself. But a 100 foot row of green giants with wipe out a lot of yard space.

Though not normally to my taste, keep an eye out of trees labeled 'columnar' or 'fastigiate' - they tend to be tall and narrow.

Trees that grow real fast tend to get real big, and are often weak-wooded. Most trees with a target height of 18 - 20' won't grow real fast, would cost a lot to get at large sizes, and a hassle to keep watered well during establishment the first couple of years in hot TN summers. You'll probably need to start small, and wait.

Can you tell us the rough dimensions of your backyard/fence?


    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 6:43PM
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thapranksta(Mid TN 7A)

Hehe. My backyard is not an acre but it is a pretty big unoccupied space at the moment. I've estimated it as 1/3 acre but it could actually be more. Actually when I purchased the property it was listed as .18 acre but that's another story. I haven't quite gone with a tape measure yet but I've gotten a satellite view from Bing and ran some ratios and numbers.

My yard is pentagonal and the sides of the fence I have actually measured are 19.6' and 40'. The other three sides estimated are 100', 70', and 80'. The 19.6' fence side is attached to and just about parallel with the rear of my house. I'd estimate that side of my yard to actually be 60'. So 100' x 70' x 80' by 60' by 40'. I'll get out with a tape measure when I find some free time and get exact measurements.

The privacy screen will cover most of the 100' and 19.6' sides but won't cover them entirely. I actually have some degree of privacy already free of charge. The woods is behind one wall of the fence and one of my neighbors has planted their own privacy trees behind another wall so these will not occupy yard space. I believe my neighbor's trees are all the same and a fast growing variety. I've noticed that all their trees have some condition where the top of them have turned brown - one reason why I've decided on a mixed border instead of having a single species hedge.

Thanks for the advice thus far. I hope I have provided you with enough of the information you asked about.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 11:57PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i am sick...

this will be terse

tiny is 6 to 12 inches ... i mean tiny ... avoid ... unless price is the ultimate decider

google thuja occ. de groots spire ... INSURE single leaders ...

your mortgage map would be a great resource for giving us an idea of what we are talking about.. as would a picture ..

bing will give you a link.. that you could put under where you type .. your words are failing me ..


    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 7:52AM
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thapranksta(Mid TN 7A)

Any thoughts on the Nellie R. Stevens Holly tree as a border tree? I would ideally like something that can grow as fast the Thuja Green Giants. I've read that the Holly can grow up to 3 feet a year but I'm unsure of how often that really happens. It is a smaller tree as far as mature height and I like the look of it so that is why it has peaked my interest.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 2:53PM
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I used a Savannah holly to fill a gap in the jungle I have planted between my house and the neighbors. It is more of a columnar tree than the blob like Nellie Stevens (but not as full). Also, it is sort of fast growing for a holly and could be limbed up to give you room to get to the fence without looking too weird. Speaking of blob like plants and limbing things up. If you want privacy ASAP you could try a wax myrtle that you prune into "tree" form to keep from eating all of your back yard. I planted a couple 12" wax myrtle twigs 5 years ago, and now they are getting to be a 20' wall of green. No more view of neighbors back porch...

Here is a link that might be useful: Savannah holly

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 3:56PM
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thapranksta(Mid TN 7A)

Interesting tidbit of info. I will research the trees you suggested. Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 3:30PM
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thapranksta(Mid TN 7A)

I assume you mean the Southern wax myrtle (or Morella cerifera). I see that there is also a Pacific wax myrtle (Morella californica). On the internet, there is some weird conflicting info about the Southern wax myrtle. Some of the sites claim it only grows up to 10 feet while some say a minimum of 20 feet claiming that it will grow even up to 40 feet closer to the coast. If it grows at the minimum of 20 feet, it sounds so far like a fantastic plant from what I've read.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 4:19PM
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Yes, southern wax myrtle Myrica cerifera . I live near the coast of NC and they do get at least 20 ft tall and wide here. The attached UFL fact sheet (and Wikipedia) says they are hardy to z6, but I remember reading somewhere that they are semi-deciduous in zone 7, so may not keep all their leaves in your zone. If you trust Wikipedia, they show M. cerifera to be native to most of TN. I donâÂÂt know if you can find one growing wild locally where you are, but they root pretty easy from cuttings and you could have a whole pile of them for little to no cost. Apparently there is a dwarf scrubby form that doesnâÂÂt get taller than 10ft, so if you can find a larger âÂÂtreeâ sized plant to take cuttings from you would ensure you have plants with the genetics to get large. As with most fast growing pioneer species, they have weaker wood and a short (50 year) lifespan. They can pretty much handle any site conditions you throw at them, and do grow ridiculously fast here. The established ones growing under the power lines down the street from me can re sprout from cut stumps into 8ft shrubs in a couple months. I think wax myrtles would be worth a try to add to a mixed species privacy screen, especially if you could start a bunch of free locally hardy tree form cuttings.

Here is a link that might be useful: UFL Wax Myrtle Fact Sheet

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 10:24AM
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Just a thought. Instead of concentrating on a screen, why not look at the sight lines carefully, and just plant trees where they will block the neighbors view? I've spent a couple years putting in flags and walking back to the house to check my sight lines both for how things will look from where I live, as well as how well they will block the view from the highway and my neighbors ability to 'peek'.

I think I'm finally getting somewhere on my third year.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 11:09PM
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thapranksta(Mid TN 7A)

I called a local nursery and found that wax myrtles get absolutely hammered in this area. They stopped carrying them for this reason. They advised me of this but still told me they could order me some if I liked. lol. They also indicated that Cryptomeria japonica are also not a good idea.

I could probably go with the idea of just planting in sight lines but that would only work if my neighbors could only view my backyard out of a window or other limited sight area. That is not the case as my neighbors can look in from just about anywhere in their backyards.

I do appreciate the suggestions. I'll probably end up with a few GG (I know they get really big), some Nellie Stevens Hollies, and various cultivars of Arbovitae (if I can find them) as they do really well here from what I understand. I'll have to conquer this in stages as I don't have the money to get the whole yard right now.

This post was edited by thapranksta on Fri, Mar 1, 13 at 17:31

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 5:30PM
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Without reviewing the whole thread as to whether all this has already been covered:

1.) Many hollies are single sex plants, so if you want berries, plant females with a compatible male variety near enough by. There are 'hermaphrodite' options, like the Oak Leaf Holly.

2.) If you're going to work with arborvitae, do some online reading on bagworm. If they sneak up on you, it can make for quite the mess. I like to get the systemic liquid (not granular, which doesn't go far enough) version of Bayer Advanced applied to the base early so they can be resistant to bagworm. I had 1 emerald green hit hard by bagworms, and I don't want to go through that again. Green Giant is a hybrid, and I don't know how much of a problem it is.

Will deer have free access to your plants? They will eat some arborvitae, & a number of other things.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 4:39PM
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thapranksta(Mid TN 7A)

Deer would have to jump my 6 foot fence. I know that they are capable of doing that but I've never seen any in my backyard though they are definitely right around the corner from my subdivision.

Thanks for mentioning the bagworms. After I read your post, I did do as you suggested and I see that these little critters cause major damage. Wow. So many sites mention arborvitae as good plants for screening but very few really focus on the pests that can destroy them in very short time.

Also, I've decided not to do a full scale screening. I'm going to be more strategic in the way that I plant the mixed border and actually create a few smaller mixed border(s) and use more creative methods for achieving more privacy. Part of this is due to making sure some of my newly planted fruit trees will not be sitting in the shade.

I could plant a row that consists largely of GG and I do have the space to accommodate them but ultimately I will be unhappy with the amount of space lost still once the size passes a certain point as ken_adrian eluded to earlier.

I still have some Arborvitae usage in my plans for screening but I'm considering more columnar varieties that may grow a little more slowly - Hetz Wintergreen is one I'm specifically looking for. Now I have to find a nursery that actually has them and at a decent size (preferably in the neighborhood of 3 or 4 feet).

Thanks everyone for your suggestions and considerations. They were very helpful and possibly helped me avoid making some big mistakes.

This post was edited by thapranksta on Mon, Mar 11, 13 at 11:36

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 11:17AM
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