What type of tree to plant to block neighbor?

jzinckgraDecember 13, 2009

My wife and I bought a house last Spring in Maine and were told the neighboring lot would not be built on for quite some time. We assumed a couple years. Low and behold, a foundation is going in this week and the house will be in direct sight of our house (~300ft away).

We have a couple hemlocks (~12-15ft tall) separating the lots, but there are some open spaces that I want to fill in with some trees come springtime. What kind of tree could we transplant? I say transplant, because I want to get ~3-4 trees that are already 10-15ft tall, not some wimpy 3 footer that will take years to grow. What kind of trees can you buy that are that tall? I'm thinking hardwood (hemlock, spruce, pine), but I suppose softwoods would be an option, but when the leaves fall, we'll loose our privacy again, so that's why I'm leaning hardwood. Would this cost a fortune? Thanks.

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I think you're thinking of evergreen when you say hardwood, and deciduous when you say softwood. The terminology threw me off for a second.

What USDA Agricultural Zone are you in?

Would a small row of Green Giant Arborvitae fill the bill? Will these trees be in a row, or planted 'here and there' in those open spaces you mention?

You mention getting 3 or 4 trees; how many are needed would vary depending on whether you get mature Emerald Green Arborvitae or young Green Giants, since the base width is much different.

I think a lot of people would opt for 4 or 5 foot tall fairly fast-growing species, rather than 15 footers up front.

Do you like the 'Christmas Tree look' (e.g.: cedar, arborvitae, some other conifers), spruce trees or what?


    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 10:08AM
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10-15 ft transplants should cost quite a bit. Decidious trees can work as privacy, depending on a person's goals. The decidious trees will lose their leaves, but its in the fall and winter when a person isn't even outside anyways.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 10:22AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

Let's get to the meatballs here...

You can get some 6-8 foot trees at nurseries (or larger) almost always- whether in a pot or trees they have growing balled and burlapped - often spruces such as Picea omorika (a first choice of mine) - Picea orientalis (another first choice) - or they will always have Picea abies or Picea pungens. Picea pungens is not the best choice for your climate, however. Picea abies is much-more-suited than pungens (Colorado Spruce).

Skip White Pine (Pinus strobus).
I'd go first for:
Picea orientalis
Picea omorika
Picea abies

Abies x phanerolepis (Canaan fir) - very fast - blue cones are likely.


    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 10:42AM
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Yes, that softwood/hardwood statement threw me off a bit as well :-) FWIW, most conifers - pine, spruce, hemlock - are considered softwood trees and deciduous shade trees - maples, elms, etc. - are considered hardwood, just the opposite of your statement. And that really has nothing to do with the durability of the wood but that's another discussion for another time :-)

Obviously, evergreen conifers will provide a more efficient and year round privacy screen, but a careful selection of deciduous trees can also provide considerable privacy as well as offering the potential benefit of fall color and/or flowers, berries/fruit or bark effect. Most better nurseries will have larger trees available, so that is really not an issue. It is matter of deciding what you want and then seeking it out locally. And that may be the limiting issue - local availability. If you want a larger tree to begin with, you are pretty much restricted to what local suppliers have on hand or can easily order for you. You should also be aware that you will be paying a lot more for a larger tree than its equivalent in a smaller size. They also tend to be more difficult to plant and very often, less quick to establish than smaller selections. On the whole, deciduous trees tend to grow faster than the majority of conifers.

OTOH, fast growing conifers like 'Green Giant' should be readily available come spring and even a smaller one to start with will provide relatively rapid privacy in just a matter of a few years.

Personally, If I had a limited number of trees to plant to achieve a privacy screen, I would select different types to increase the aesthetics, avoid a monoculture or hedge look and attract a variety of wildlife.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 11:50AM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

I, too, would go with a mixture of trees-evergreen and deciduous. I would not plant in a row, either, but off-set so it looks natural and random. That would also allow the trees plenty of space to grow, filling in the gaps nicely in a few years.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 11:55AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Unless there are other straight lines of trees in the view, a row will be likely to draw attention to the new house rather than obscure it completely.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 12:25PM
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Thanks for your suggestions. Regarding hardwoods vs softwoods- I never did well in Botany, so that explains that:)

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 5:40PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Wow... only 300 feet away from neighbor's house... I wish i had that much space and be happy without trees...

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 6:44PM
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Dan Staley

Before anyone starts recommending trees, what is the exposure? Evergreen should not be planted on the south side of a structure, esp in Maine. And ~300 ft away? Sheesh. We should all be so lucky. Even with my glasses on, I'm not sure I can see clearly across my lot. ;o) But I guess with 100 yd, you can plant evergreens 150 ft away from the house (depending upon slope) and be fine with shade in winter.


    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 7:08PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

"Wow... only 300 feet away from neighbor's house... I wish i had that much space and be happy without trees..."

Thats what I was thinking. That is a full football field away! You have to own half of Maine!!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 7:27PM
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I'm thinking the poster might not own all 300 feet between houses; in fact, it might be the neighbor who's the 'land baron'!

For that matter, owning an acre or two on the edge of a small town, for example, it's that unusual. Our lot in southwestern KY is 1.14 acres, and the fenced in backyard portion is around 120 feet wide, 200 feet front-to-back.

We have a neighbor easily visible across from the front yard, over 300' away, but they seem to like conifers and have some sizable ones out along the road, so their (white) house doesn't stick out so much.


    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 9:29PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

this is too easy ..

you plant trees and conifers that please you ....

and you go diverse ... not all of one kind .... nor all of one size.. nor in a line ...

and the number is dictated by the viewing areas ... you go to each window in the house.. and look for the straight line to the view you want to block ... second stories become problematic .... and then you go out to any deck or patio where you need to block a view ... landscape flags really help conceptualize it all ...

IMHO.. the biggest problem peeps have is thinking lineally at the property line .... you may need 20 trees 150 feet away .. and need them to be 20 feet tall .... when one shrub/tree/conifer.. planted 20 feet from the deck.. will accomplish the task at hand .... and then the same from each window ....

then it becomes a matter of what to plant in the middle of the lawn ... which is both aesthetic and useful ... in other words ... perhaps a flowering crab 15 feet from the side window.. will add seasonal interest .... etc ...

some pix might sure help you define where you should go with all this ....

but do make sure that you dont plant a tree that can get 40 feet wide ... 10 feet from you house ...

good luck

ps: its winter.. your view might not be the same in summer.. if there are deciduous trees around ....

    Bookmark   December 14, 2009 at 8:45AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

It's true that if you plant near your house instead of theirs it will be much easier to maintain and monitor the planting. Your house might be able to use additional trees near it for other reasons as well, like cutting the wind during winter.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2009 at 12:01PM
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Granted we are lucky to have so much space, but we moved from out of state where the neighbors were too close for comfort. They were nice and all, but we moved north to get away from overcrowding and neighbors. It's not the distance as much as their windows will be pretty much a straight shot to the front of our house, which includes our master bedroom. I'm sure some will say to pull the blinds, but I don't want to be closing/opening a bunch of blinds every day.

The current hemlocks that are on the property line are ~75ft away and on the north side of the house. It looks like 2-4 trees would close of the gaps of interest.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2009 at 7:57PM
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johnstaci(Z5/6 NW MO)

agree with above- don't plant one species and not in a straight row. a mix of decid that hold their leaves in winter and conifers is good. you can plant in evenly spaced curved rows which allows for easy mowing. in 10 yrs it will look much more natural. straight rows along driveways are one thing - anywhere else it may look overly engineered and awkward.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2009 at 12:58AM
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Unless they have a telescope, they will not be able to see anything through your windows from 300' away. Heck, they'll be lucky to even see the windows clearly at that distance.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2009 at 9:55AM
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I had the same problem, only the ugly new house was 2000' away. That is close in the country, spoils your views IMO!

So, I planted a full hedge of western red cedars(10' on centers- rapid growth in my zone). In case more homes pop up back there too!
Then, in front of this hedge, between the ugly house and my view I planted some huge trees @ 12-15' each. They were a risk and an experiment but you know- my view is worth it to me!
Again I went cheap with cedars, douglas firs, and 2 oaks (Quercus palustris) which grow rapid and hold dead leaves for much of the winter. It's a grove and is near tall enough to help block the house out. And if they are stunted or fail to thrive, the cedar hedge will be tall enough in FIVE TO TEN years.
Cost? $2000. That hurt. But, privacy is more important than new shoes or cars for me. I'd do it again!

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 4:03PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

2000' away...thats just under 1/2 mile! How can you tell its ugly?? lol

I understand the plantings in case more homes pop up at a much closer distance.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 6:22PM
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I was thinking about a Sugar Maple for a space to block a neighbor cati-corner from me who recently took out a deck and pool and now we look into eachothers houses. How would that work in clay type soil in the midwest?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 4:41PM
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